GSM, Cuvée Mirabelle, Lauren Ashton Cellars, Colombia Valley AVA, Washington, 2012, 14.5% abv. US$50

This GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) is a delicious Washington state wine you can taste and buy at their Woodinville headquarters.

Have you stopped in at Woodinville lately?  Really, it’s the best idea ever – located only 30 minutes outside of Seattle, and dedicated to promoting dozens of Washington state wines.  All the tasting bars are conveniently peppered about town.

On the eyes, this blend is deep ruby with aromas of ripe blackberry, sweet tobacco, a little game and forest floor.

The palate is dry with soft tannins and flavours of more ripe blackberry, cassis, tobacco, leather, and leaves.  With its solid structure and finish, this is WSET Very Good; meaty and fruity – all extraordinary.

Photo: Mike Woods Photography

 

Posted in Grenache / Garnacha, Mouvedre, Monastrell, RED, Shiraz / Syrah, Washington State | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blanc de Noir, Rosé, Sea Star Vineyards and Winery, Pender Island, BC, Canada, 2017, 11.7% abv, C$24

un·ex·pect·edˌənəkˈspektəd/
adjective adjective: unexpected
-not expected or regarded as likely to happen, as in”finding this world class wine on Pender Island was unexpected.”

I’d wanted to visit the Sea Star winery on Pender Island, one of BC’s Gulf Islands, for a while.  A tasting at the vineyards had been part of a Christmas gift, and now that spring had sprung, a trip was in order.

My mother grew up on neighbouring – and much larger – Salt Spring Island, but I had only ever been to Pender once before.  The ferry got us there from Vancouver Island’s Swartz Bay directly and we went straight to the winery hoping to be first in line.

The amazing and affable David Goudge.

Sea Star owner David Goudge was on property and hosted our tasting and questions.  They’ve recently acquired 44 additional acres located across the strait on Saturna Island. Although initially there was 5 years of untamed growth to pick through, hedge trimmers dealt with the blackberry and thistle, and the grapes were given a clean bill of health – which says a lot about the local terroir and its ability to host Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is one of the most difficult grapes out there to raise.  It’s a diva – a true heartbreak grape, so it’s even more astonishing that something so fussy is able to flourish in the southern Gulf Island micro climate which has a relatively short growing season.

Sea Star’s estate vineyard – look at the slope on this!

The Blanc de Noir that we came away with (in addition to 2 other mixed cases), is a combination of 50% Pinot Noir grapes from Clam Bay Farm on Pender and 50% from the Saturna vineyard.  The fruit has been whole-cluster pressed and the end product is atrociously delicious – we used it to toast a 76th birthday a week later.  Strawberries and cream, apricots and tangy cranberry shine through.  It’s no wonder the 2016 version of this wine was best in show at the 2017 Canadian Culinary Championships.

The tasting had more beauties including the Stella Maris – which is now my current favourite white.  This blend of six weirdo grapes – Gew, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Ortega, Pinot Noir and Schönburger – has the most incredible nose and palate of honey, apricot, rose hips and yellow pear.  The Salish Sea is another blend, this time of Ortega and Siegerrebe, offering a delicious herbaceous lemongrass and tropical fruit drink.  And at a delicate 11.5% abv, you can enjoy it all day long.

I can’t wait to try my bottles of Marechal Foch which were whole cluster fresh pressed on the skins, and only lightly tannic.  I’ve been told to expect a Beaujolais style red with plenty of fresh fruit.

What an unexpected gem of a winery.  I’d heard it was outstanding from chef and sommelier friends, but when I saw it in action, and tasted for myself, I was excited to know wine of such a high level of quality is available here at Pender’s Sea Star.  And, not only is their product outstanding, their marketing and esthetics are beautiful.

There’s plenty of great other stuff to do on Pender, so if you go, plan to visit Twin Island Cider, have lunch at The Woods (where you can have a glass of almost every Sea Star release), chow down on dessert at Poet’s Cove and sit on a beach.  We did!

So west coast, so world class – nothing but great expectations for my next bottle, and visit.

Posted in British Columbia, Pinot Noir, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Riesling, Xabregas, Mad Men, Mount Barker, Western Australia, 2014, 12.2% abv, AUS$27

This Riesling hails from the far reaches of western Australia – below Perth along the southern coastline in Mount Barker.

The area has a Mediterranean influence, slight elevation, and is moderated by winds blowing in off the Southern Ocean which makes for some of the coolest growing conditions in Oz.

Think cool climate, tropical tasting white wines as a result of this.

On the eyes, this big bodied wine is a deep gold with aromas of tangerine, tropical fruit, wax and honey. The beautiful colour has been caused by maceration and being left on the skins.

The palate is lightly off dry with good acidity and fresh flavours of papaya, mango, and quince with subtle elderflower, beeswax and light petrol.

WSET Good plus and at the height of its drinking window.  If you’re holding, enjoy it now as we did with Sunday brunch.  At only 12% abv, you can drink this all day long – or with your fruit salad and eggs.

Posted in Australia, Riesling, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rum, Premise, 10 years old, Single Blended Rum, Foursquare Rum Distillery, Barbados, 46% abv (92 proof), US$30

Foursquare Rum Distillery, Barbados

A long, long time ago when in university, I made a critical error about the amount of mixer required to combine with spirits when I drank an entire mickey of some nondescript, cheap white rum with only two measly cans of diet coke.

I lived to tell the tale… barely… but swore I would never drink rum again.  Poor spirit, it really wasn’t its fault.

Flash forward 25 years to the DipWSET spirits course I took, and I had to change that decision to be able to taste and differentiate between styles of rum.  Perhaps due to my rum hyper-sensitivity, I was consistently good at spotting it in double blind tasting line ups of clear and brown spirits.

But now, I think I can say I have made my peace with rum.

Rum ages twice as quickly in the tropics- and loses a higher percentage to the angel’s share.

Despite its mostly dishonorable history – so closely intertwined with that of slavery and stolen lives – today rum is one of the world’s best selling spirits.  And I can vouch that the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados is one of the greatest places to learn about it.

We visited Foursquare in April 2018 and took the self-guided tour, ending up at the distillery’s Copper Still Tasting Bar run by Deborah whose dad, William Folkes, had

Deborah Folkes lining up the tasting at the Copper Still Bar.

been the original bartender.  Now Deborah works the distillery’s tasting bar with her son, Dario and daughter Janelle.  Let me just say, these folks know a lot about rum.

We tasted through:

*Doorly’s XO – fine old, aged in Bourbon and Oloroso casks, 40% abv / 80 proof, Doorly’s was the first Bajan rum to be exported
*RL Seale’s 10 yo – aged in US oak, 43% abv  86 proof, the thinnest of the bunch, in a bottle made to look like a pirate’s sack.
*Doorly’s 12 yo – aged in small US oak cask, 40% abv, 80 proof – smooth, delicious, totally rounded and married, and hard to stop drinking
*Foursquare Premise – 10 yo, single blended rum, aged in Bourbon and Sherry casks, 46% abv, 92 proof – released January 2018, extremely smooth, Sherry notes with green cane, demerara, maple and a very long finish
*Foursquare Dominus – 10 yo, single blended rum, aged in Bourbon and Cognac casks, 56 % abv, 112 proof – sweet molasses, baked apple, and brown sugar
*Foursquare 2005 – 12 yo, single blended rum, aged in Bourbon casks, 59% abv, 118 proof – peaty with smoke, green cane, and maple sugar, super duper high abv but not hot on the finish

I brought home the Premise and the Doorly’s XO, both WSET Outstanding, and have decided rum is worthy again of space in my life – and my liquor cabinet.

The beautiful Copper Still tasting bar.

You may know that rum loses twice as much spirit in the ageing process as other spirits due to the tropical heat.  I learned in Barbados that it also drinks twice as quickly.

The tour is self-guided and highly recommended.

If you’re going to visit Barbados, I highly recommend this experience – it’s not touristy and the tour is free, the bar ‘Folkes’ know what they’re doing, and the spirits – made mostly with molasses imported from Guyana – are the highest quality ones produced on the island.

Most of the molasses used to make these rums is from Guyana, but this field of sugarcane is at the distillery.

Posted in Barbados, Rum/Rhum, SPIRITS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sauvignon Blanc, Fumées Blanches, Francois Lurton, Vin de France, France, 2016, 11.5% abv, C$14

Who’s looking for a crisp white wine to enjoy on the back porch as winter turns into spring?

That’s what I thought…

Here’s one that’s available in North American and European stores at prices ranging from a low of C$12.95 in Ontario, to a high of C$15 plus taxes in British Columbia where every year, 2,200 cases of it are sold.  That’s 26,400 bottles!

It’s actually the best selling boxed white wine at Systembolaget, Sweden’s wine monopoly, where 1.9 million litres were sold for 89 kr/box (C$14.50) in 2015.

There are literally oceans of this wine available around the world.  That said, it’s perfectly acceptable – it’s wine and it’s doing its thing.

The Lurton Fumées Blanches has the colour of pale straw and aromas of light gooseberry, citrus, herbaceous green grass, and some distinct flint.

The palate is dry with average acidity and flavours of lemon zest, yellow grapefruit, more gooseberry and spring leaf.  There’s a minerality rounding off everything, and the flinty smoke pulls through the palate.

A WSET Good wine, there’s not a whole lot of complexity here.  But that said, it’s not sweet, it generally tastes as a Sauvignon Blanc should, and it’s affordable.

You’re welcome!

Picture credit – Wine-searcher.com
Posted in OTHER | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Garnaxa / Syrah, Clos Erasmus, Priorat DOQ, Spain, 2010, 15% abv, 139€

In January 2015, we made a trip to Priorat DOQ in Spain and met the indomitable Daphne Glorian, owner of, and winemaker with her friend and colleague Ester Nin, at Clos Erasmus. It really was the tasting of a lifetime – and you can read about it here.

Clos Erasmus is a super petit estate of only 10 bio-dynamically farmed hectares which produces a maximum of 140 cases each year.  Bottles start at C$200 and while this one was C$222 at purchase, it is currently available around the world for between $250-$450.

Chef Angela Wall hard at work.

Glorian is the only female winemaker to have received two back-to-back 100 point scores from Robert Parker (for her 2004 and 2005), and this vintage was awarded a lofty 97.  Jancis Robinson gave it an almost unheard of 18/20, and it earned 96 from each Antonio Galloni and Stephen Tanzer.

At this point, you are probably getting that I’ve been waiting for the perfect wine and food moment to enjoy this rare bottle.

People often write about wine and casually throw out sentences like, “Wow, it was amazing.  The best I’ve ever had.  A world class bottle!”  Most of the time though, it’s pure hyperbole.  It’s not often that it’s actually true – that the wine is globally bench-marked, and that is has a pedigree to go along with a measured assessment.

Steak tartare prepared with Thomas George Estates Russian River Valley olive oil.

I’m not one for exaggeration.

This is a 75% Garnaxa (Garnacha / Grenache), 25% Syrah blend of translucent garnet wine with deeply herbal aromas of sour cherry, flowers, light moss, and umami.  We opened it up and let it unwind for a good two hours, so by the time we got to the first course, it was showing a beautifully married berry, herb and violet profile.

Pan-seared, Vancouver Island raised steaks topped with herbed butter, and lentils with eggplant and mint.

The palate is dry with good acidity and flavours of cherry, berry, wet stone, soft purple flowers, herbs, and a lemon balm-like sorrel, all on a bed of basalmic. Tannins are velvety, and the construction of the broad body pulls through to support the long finish.

The Bodegas Maestro Sierra Amontillado helped the chef and sous chef make it through to service.

Deliciously elegant, seamless and well built, it needed about 2-3 hours in the decanter and glass to relax, but when it did, it was Outstanding.

Seared zucchini with smoked Croatian mussels.

We paired this bottle with steak tartare, pan-seared Vancouver Island raised steaks topped with herbed butter, lentils with eggplant and mint, and zucchini and smoked mussels for an unforgettable dining experience.

Posted in Grenache / Garnacha, OTHER, RED, Shiraz / Syrah, Spain | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pinot Gris, Unsworth Vineyards, Vancouver Island VQA, BC, 2016, 13.5% abv. C$21

“Oh, I didn’t know they grow grapes on Vancouver Island.  In Canada!  Really?”

And so it goes with the skepticism.  Yes, believe it (or not), vinifera grapes are being grown on Vancouver Island.

Really though, it shouldn’t be so much of a stretch for anyone who has any sense of geography.

We’re talking significant micro-climates on an island the size of Taiwan off Canada’s west coast that has the mildest average climate in the country, and receives 40% less rain than the Lower Mainland.

It’s no wonder then that it’s more than possible to grow excellent quality grapes, and to craft delicious wines from them.

So, if you’re local, pick up a bottle.  If you’re not, check in with me and maybe I can get one to you.  Either way, give this one a try.

On the eyes, it’s a very pale lemon with delicate aromas of nectarine, citrus and lemon grass with rocks.

The palate is dry with good acidity and flavours of more nectarine, lime zest, pink grapefruit, dried herb and rocks.  This is all complimented by a kick of significant almond on the back end.

A WSET Good plus Canadian wine, eh.  Available at leading restaurants, private liquor stores throughout BC, and at the winery.

Posted in British Columbia, Pinot Gris, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment