GSM, Henry’s Seven, Henschke, Barossa, South Australia, 2014, 14% abv., US$45

Here is an Aussie Shiraz (60%), with Grenache, Mataro (also known as Mourvèdre), and a splash of Viognier blended in.  It was made at Henschke in honour of Henry Evans who planted the first vineyard there in 1853.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like in the Australian outback in the 1850s, but I’m sure things have changed somewhat since then.

On the eyes, it’s a deep ruby with a superbly fragrant nose of violets with deep plum, great minerality and some sweet straw.

On the palate, it’s dry with more plum, blackberry, and black cherry, light licorice and dried grass, and distinct Chinese five spice powder.

WSET Very Good – elegant, aromatic and delicious – pair with chili, tacos, steak or anything that you want your wine to stand up to.  This beauty can more than handle it.
Purchased at Seattle’s Total Wine and More.


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

Prior de Neo, Priorat DOQ, Spain, 2006, 15% abv, C$45

From Porrera, Priorat in Catalunya and all its rocky, llicorella glory, this is a primarily Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) wine with Merlot, Syrah and Garnacha thrown into the blend.

On the eyes, this beauty is a translucent ruby, with developed aromas of raisin, prune, rock and salted black licorice.

The palate is dry with completely resolved and plush tannins, great salinity, dried fruit, blue prune, anise and dried herb.  A lovely, long finish compliments the developed palate.

Pair it with hearty winter dishes like stew or chili.

WSET Very Good – Absolutely delicious and 11 years old at opening.  If you’re holding, drink immediately.
You can purchase this at Liquor Plus outlets across BC.  Recently it has been on sale as it’s near the end of its drinking window.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon / Blends, Grenache / Garnacha, Merlot, OTHER, RED, Shiraz / Syrah, Spain | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Champagne, Brut, Nicolas Maillart, Premier Cru, Millésime, Champagne AC, France, 2007, 12.5% abv.

Coco Chanel probably said it best when she remarked, “I only drink champagne on two occasions.  When I am in love and when I am not.”

Champagne just makes everything better.  Always.  Some people have said to me that they just don’t like the stuff.  But I think that if one hasn’t experienced good quality champagne, one would think all the stuff tastes the same.  And that would certainly negatively affect one’s opinion about champagne in general.

Well, this is most definitely good quality, vintage champagne made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Disgorged in October 2012, we opened it at 10 years old in 2017.

On this eyes, this treat is a golden tone with finely beaded and long-lasting mousse. The nose shows toast with citrus, yellow apple and hazelnut, while the palate is dry with high, juicy acidity and flavours of toasted french bread, almond, golden lemon meringue pie, and late autumn, grainy, yellow apple.

Deeply complex and more than a little developed, this is WSET Very Good plus.  I think Coco would have loved it.

You can buy Nicholas Maillart grower champagnes at Marquis Wines.

Posted in Champagne, Chardonnay, France, Pinot Noir, RED, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fino, En Rama, Bodegas Tradición, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO, Spain, 15% abv, €25

When we walked out of Bodegas Tradición, we looked at each other and exclaimed simultaneously, “Never in my lifetime did I imagine I would pay C$40 for a bottle of Fino!”

This, however, is not your average Fino.

While a typical bottle is usually crisp and refreshing, briny and yeasty, and perhaps offers a little citrus punch to get you through a round of olives, fresh bread and light tapa, this version is a serious masterpiece.

Aged for an average of 12 years – the outer limits for Fino ageing – the ultra dry Tradición Fino En Rama has golden lemon colour and an earthy elegance.

While the average Fino has a light and yeasty profile, this one has the heft and complexity of straw, nuts and apple cider with great texture.

And it was bottled En Rama, meaning unfiltered with no additives.  Bodegas Tradición prides itself on this aspect of their wine making – in the traditional manner, with everything done by hand.

The modern day Bodegas Tradición was founded in 1998, but the original heart of their VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry) solera extends to the 1650s.  The current owners also collect art and there is a beautiful gallery to enjoy prior to the tour.

WSET Very Good Plus



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Pinot Noir, Scott Paul, Azana, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Oregon, 2013, 12.9% abv., US$60

We visited the tasting room for this graceful Pinot Noir in tiny Carlton, Oregon in August 2016.

The Chehalem Mountains AVA where the grapes for this wine are grown is located entirely within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, just south of Portland.

Carlton is a charming village and is highly recommended if you’re looking for a long weekend escape with seriously excellent dining and drinking choices – all located on a two block stretch of the main drag.

We took a bottle of this home and enjoyed it with west coast salmon, wild rice and heirloom tomatoes with basil.

On the eyes, it’s a translucent garnet.  The nose shows tart pomegranate, strawberry, red cherry and moss with vanilla bean, and the palate is dry with mouth-watering acidity, strained tannins and flavours of more green strawberry with cherry, fern, light anise and fennel.

WSET Very Good – deliciously elegant – enough to make me want to return to get more and visit Carlton for a third time…

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Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO, Spain, 15% abv, €15

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana is located 30 km east of Jerez in the Spanish seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda housed in a set of cathedral-like buildings built originally on the oceanfront.  The Atlantic started receding in the 1800s and now it’s a walk of several blocks to the beach (left).

This is a bodega that is still family owned (6th generation) with its own organically farmed vineyards (about 170 ha).  It also maintains many of the traditional sherry-making methods and unlike other bodegas, sells very old and rare sherries at its on premise store.

We had a private tour with Victor, whom we tried (unsuccessfully) to entice to practice his flamenco singing. 

The specialty from Sanlúcar de Barrameda is Manzanilla – essentially Fino that has aged on the salty coast – and Hidalgo La Gitana is famous for this classic.  We tasted the 4-5 yo Manzanilla bottled En Rama (unfiltered) with its delicate sea breeze, green olive and salt profile, an Amontillado VORS Napoleon (42-45 yo) along with others.

But the Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana was unique.  Made from Palomino Fino grapes from a single vineyard – the Miraflores, located halfway between Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Jerez.  This sherry is an average of 11-12 yo and exudes dried flowers and grass, pine nuts, soft salt, seaside, olive and herbs.

We enjoyed some later at a local restaurant with the traditional pairings – dried red tuna, octopus and langoustines, and took a bottle of the La Gitana En Rama up to the rooftop of our hotel to enjoy with new friends.

Good times all around.

WSET Very Good Plus
You can buy Hidalgo La Gitana products all over the world (including BC).

Posted in FORTIFIED WINE, OTHER, Palomino, Sherry, Spain, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cream, Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO, Spain, 375ml, 17.5% abv.

During a September 2017 visit to Jerez, Spain, we wanted to find a way to spend some time in a vineyard growing Palomino grapes.

This proved to be more challenging than one would think!  The grape growing system in the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO is often quite separate from the activities at the bodegas where the sherry is aged in the Solera system.  As a result, bodegas are not often co-located with the vineyards their base wines come from.

However, after a little asking around, the owner of La Fonda Barranco, recommended a truly inspiring experience with the Sherry Spirit Enotourism vineyard tour.  To say it was unique and picturesque would be an understatement.

Guides Cecilia and Isabel arrived at our small hotel in Jerez to pick us up at 6pm.

Four hours of albariza soil, Palomino grapes and a full tasting of Bodegas El Maestro Sierra barrel samples followed, complete with delicious pairings – and all in the middle of the Pagos Aniña vineyard.

Sherry Spirit Enotourism is a petite tour company run by Cecilia Rodriguez and Eduardo Valderas.  Eduardo also happens to work at Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, a small (2000 barrel) sherry bodega in Jerez  dating to 1830.

We had a walking tour of the  vineyard to see the white, powdery, calcium carbonate (30-80%) albariza soils up close.  It really is amazing that anyone ever thought, “Gee, let’s plant some vines here and grow grapes.” Expert interpretation and analysis were provided by Cecilia in Spanish and Isabel in English, and then we moved to the tasting.

We started with some Infinito Palmira, their unfiltered 100% Palomino, dry, white wine with notes of guava and pomelo.

Then, we enjoyed some 5 year old (yo) Fino paired with sunflower seeds, and the Amontillado which had the most unique pairing – BBQ corn nuts. 

The 15 yo Oloroso was stunning, but it was the Cream that impressed me.  This is a blend of 70% of the 15 yo Oloroso and 30% of the 5 yo Pedro Ximénez.  The two are then put into American oak barrels for 4 more years to age with the Cream being the culmination.

Burnt orange zest with toffee and toasted almond rest on a base of butter, coffee and biscuit.  Refreshing and not cloying with high acidity, the Cream paired beautifully with peach jam and pâté on fresh telera bread.

This wine experience was outstanding and comes highly recommended if you find yourself in Jerez wanting to traipse through chalky, white vineyard soils while drinking beautifully crafted sherries.

You can buy El Maestro Sierra sherries at select private liquor stores located around the world, including Kitsilano Wine Cellar and Marquis Wine Cellar in Vancouver, Canada.


Posted in Palomino, Pedro Ximenez / Pedro Gimenez, Sherry, Spain, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment