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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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Blanc de Pacs, Parés Baltà, Organic, Penedes DO, Spain, 2014, 11.5% abv, C$21++

IMG_6911 In keeping with my recent attempts to let you know about well-priced AND delicious wines, here is another one to try.

I often go to Everything Wine because of their always impressive selection of easy-on-the-pocket-book, unusual varietal, Spanish wines.

The Parés Baltà Bodega produces wines from 100% guaranteed organic grapes grown on its Demeter certified biodynamic vineyards.  How great is that?  Organic and biodynamic – and only C$21!

They’ve been making wine since the 1790s and this is one of their entry level white blends made of the 3 varietals combined in Cava – Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo – but in a still wine (no bubbles).

Pale gold in colour, it has aromas of rocks, grapefruit, lemon and yellow apple.

On the palate, it’s dry with juicy acidity and flavours of lemon zest and pomelo with apples, some minerality, and a touch of rubber from the Xarel-lo.

The only complaint may be a slightly watery mid-palate, but this is a lovely little wine.  Balanced with tender alcohol at only 11.5%, you can and should drink this one all day long.  It punches way above its weight in terms of price too.

The verdict?  There’s no way to lose – WSET Good plusbueno!

Posted in Macabeu, OTHER, Parellada, Spain, WHITE, Xarel-lo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Riesling, Pewsey Vale, Individual Vineyard Selection, Eden Valley, South Australia, 2016, 12.5% abv, C$20+

Here’s another wine with an awesome price tag that is not only delicious, but is readily available everywhere.

This one hails from Australia – land of kangaroos, koalas, heat waves, and Shiraz, right?

Well, actually no, mate.

Australia is more than a one trick pony country, to be sure.  As a Canadian, I should not be surprised by this; after all, we Canadians are familiar with such stereotypes.  We all make ice wine, live in igloos and work as lumberjacks – not.

In fact, Australia encompasses all major macro-climates – including alpine, desert, Mediterranean and Bordeaux style, maritime environments. And yes, while the Shiraz, GSM and reds are to die for, Australia is just as adept at cool climate, white varieties such as Chardonnay, Semillon and in this case, Riesling.

This Eden Valley winery was first established in 1847 by Joseph Gilbert, an Englishman who jumped at the chance to sail to a new life and 15,000 acres of land just 40 km outside of Adelaide in South Australia.

He named his property Pewsey Vale after his English homeland and proceeded to plant what was the very first vineyard in the Eden Valley at an altitude of 440-490 m in the cool hills surrounding the Barossa Valley (that lies directly to the north).

The vines were abandoned for a while but re-invigorated in the 1960s.  They’re now organic and farmed using biodynamic principles.  And oh, this is cool – all the vines at Pewsey Vale can be traced back to the original 1847 plants.

Eden Valley is particularly famous for its lime-accented Rieslings, and this one is pale yellow-green showing a nose with great minerality, citrusy lemon and lime, and stone fruit.  There’s a tiny bit of petrol if you like that (I do!), but if you aren’t looking for it, you are unlikely to notice.

The palate is dry and juicy with flavours of pink grapefruit, bergamot, lemon zest, white pear, and a touch of clover honey.

WSET Very Good and a great deal at only C$20++.  It’s well known and commercially available everywhere, but organic, biodynamic and delicious.  You could even age it if you want to for about 5 years because of the acidity.

I recommend, however, that you enjoy it now!  You can buy it at 46 of the BC Liquor Stores and many of the privates- and this wine is also shipped to the UK, Europe, USA and rest of Canada.

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