Seaside Gin, Sheringham Distillery, Sooke, BC, Canada, 43% abv, C$46

Beautiful Sooke, BC

It’s not often that I write about spirits on Winellama.  In fact, when I took the WSET Diploma, I balked at having to take a course on spirits.  In the end, it was the course I learned the most from – and got the highest mark on.  And ever since then, there has been  g i n .

However, when the gin you’ve been drinking for quite some time and raving about finally vindicates you and wins the World Gin Awards 2019 prize for ‘best contemporary gin,’ you should probably go and pay a visit to their actual distillery.

We were led through a tasting and tour by Lainey.  She was quite clear that if we were enjoying ourselves, her name was Lainey.  If not, she was Sarah.  Definitely Lainey.

Lainey in action

Of course we left with a bottle of my favourite – the Seaside Gin made from BC white wheat and malted barley (it has to be in order to be called a craft spirit in the province), botanicals including rose, lavender, coriander and juniper, and winged kelp hand harvested by a local marine biologist in Sooke.  You cannot get more local than that.

This gin is so precise and crystal clean with a saline, slightly citrus, and light almond nose and palate that help you imagine you’re walking along a west coast beach.  Enjoy it neat, with tonic, or as my favourite in a martini with a local vermouth from Devine Vineyards.

Literally hand bottled

I tried to leave with a bottle of the Akvavit and the Whiskey as well, but one was sold out and one was not ready.  This only means I must return.

Friendly service from Shirley Delicious is an understatement.

When you go, make some time to go 20 minutes up the road to the community of Shirley and enjoy a meal or coffee at Shirley Delicious.  They boast the friendliest service and best food on that side of Vancouver Island, hands down.  Ironically, they’re located on Sheringham Road.  It’s a sign.

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Gringet, Brut, Domaine Belluard et Fils, Ayse, Savoie AOC, France, NV, 12% abv.

Nestled in a valley between Geneva and Mont Blanc at an altitude of 400m, Domaine Belluard et Fils is a biodynamic (since 2001) and organic vineyard growing several grapes – but one that is most unusual and unique – Gringet.

There are only 20 hectares of Gringet growing in the entire world and 10 of them are here at Dominique Belluard’s domaine.  Some have even gone so far as to call him the ‘Saviour of Gringet‘ because of this.  All his wines are created with indigenous yeasts, and he uses concrete eggs instead of stainless steel – producing superbly balanced and fresh wines.

We enjoyed this incredible bottle of sparkling wine with a Thai food dinner made from scratch.

Chefs at work on the Thai dinner

Gold with a light but persistent mousse, this wine has a shockingly sherry-like nose with saline, almonds, bruised apricot, mango, and peach.  I actually gasped (in pleasure) when I swirled and sniffed this wine the first time.

The palate is dry with super high, mouth-watering acidity and flavours of dried apricot and nectarine, delicate white flowers, marzipan, and nuts.

Pad Thai and Larp

All of this is enveloped in a voluptuous body that is absolutely delicious and went well with our rice noodle Pad Thai and the Tom Kha coconut cream-based soup.

I wouldn’t recommend this wine with most Thai dishes, but those two were only lightly spiced, the developed dried fruit profile of the wine brought out some of the tropical flavours in them, and the body more than stood up to the richness of the food.

Yes, that is a different bottle…

Truth be told, we finished the bottle up very quickly – and were sad when it was over.  Champagne always gets the airtime and fireworks, but this was one of the best bottles of sparkling wine I’ve ever enjoyed.

This is definitely a drink to search for – if you find a bottle, buy it.  Buy them all.  It’s unique, WSET outstanding, shockingly delicious, and just delightful to drink.


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Turbiana and the White Wines of Lugana DOC, Italy

I met Ambra Berardi of the Consorzio Tutela Lugana at the 2018 Wine Writer’s Conference in Walla Walla, Washington when I was looking for light and delicate white wines at the opening tasting reception. 

I was hooked instantly by the fresh, aromatic profiles of the wines from Lugana DOC.  I was even happier when Ambra freed up three bottles for me to take home to pair with an Italian-themed tasting menu.

Lugana was named the first white Italian DOC 50 years ago, and uniquely, half of it is in Lombardy and half in Veneto.  Situated at the southernmost tip of Lake Garda, and only 65m above sea level, there’s little frost here because of the warming effect of the lake.

Lying half way between Milan and Venice, Lugana is a small area of only 2,113 ha covered with clay and gravel that the late ripening Turbiana grape loves.

Now we just need guests.

Turbiana is often confused with Verdicchio, but it’s actually more closely related to Trebbiano di Soave and all 3 grapes prefer different soils.  Lugana wines must be 90% Turbiana, and any other grapes used must be grown in Lugana.

We enjoyed the Tenuta Roveglia, Vigne di Catullo Riserva, 2015 from 50 year old vines with a profile of high acidity, almonds, soft white flowers, lemon mousse and saline olives, and Ottella’s Back to Silence, 2017 aged on the skins and in terra cotta amphorae, also with great acidity, pear, quince, herb, ginger, white flower blossoms and a medium body.

Both were delicious and paired well with seared scallops, tagliatelle with parsley, Pecorino and pine nuts, risotto Milanese, west coast sashimi, and a caprese salad.

The late harvest (Vendemmia Tardiva), botrytis affected semi-sweet Rabbiosa from Marangona Cantina, 2015 was a serious match made in heaven with Cambozola cheese, walnuts, and apple strudel.

These are not wines that try to impress with power.  They’re studies in delicacy and subtlety.  The ones we paired were absolutely outstanding and such a tribute to this tiny wine region that is punching above its weight out there in the world.  The Consorzio Tutela Lugana is doing a great job at educating global wine lovers about its product. If you can find Lugana DOC wines in your market, buy them.  They’re great value, reasonably priced (US$18-25), and accessible to all drinkers.

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Expression, Champagne Geoffroy, Brut, Premier Cru, Cumières, Champagne AC, France, 2011 + 2012, 12.5% abv, C$80

Something extremely exciting happened to us about a month ago when our family welcomed a brand new baby granddaughter to the clan.

To welcome this adorable nymph to the world, we opened a bottle of Geoffroy ‘Expression’ champagne.  We selected this grower champagne precisely because we’d actually visited this house on bottling day in 2014.  So, sharing our story of the visit and a bottle of it with our family brought us great joy.

The Expression is Geoffroy’s premier cuvée and is made from wine taken from two years (2011 and 2012) and three types of grapes – 50% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir, and 10% Chardonnay.

Pale lemon on the eyes with aromas of lemon, Granny Smith apple and fresh yeast. The palate has high acidity, a feathery and long lasting mousse, and flavours of applesauce and sharp lemon zest with custard.

Tasting with Rene Geoffroy in July 2014

Fresh and delicious, this champagne is WSET Very Good, and perfect for toasting new babies.

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Loïc Mahé, Gourmandise du Gue d’Orger, Savennières, Loire Valley AoC, France, 12.5% abv, 2015, US$20

Straight from Savennières in the Loire Valley comes this precise, biodynamic red wine made of Cabernet Franc by Loïc Mahé.

On the eyes, it’s translucent ruby with a nose of light raspberry and strawberry, with green leaf, schist and earth.  

The palate is dry with juicy acidity, feathered tannins and flavours of red cherry, plum, raspberry and spring leaf in a stoney frame.

WSET Very Good, there’s a slightly unbalanced lighter nose against the deeper palate.  But otherwise, it’s bright, tart and delicious.

We enjoyed it with barbecued smokies and fresh vegetables to herald in summer.

Take a minute to check out Loïc’s website.  It’s all in French, and is full of interesting information about his philosophy and making wine in Savennières.  You can read a Winellama review of his Anjou Villages red wine here.


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Syrah, Ramey Wine Cellars, Sonoma Coast AVA, California, 2013, 14.5% abv (US$59)

Four years ago this month, I graduated with the WSET Diploma – a credential anyone who works in wine and spirits will know is that difficult.  Drinking lots of interesting things to support my wine studies and habit has never been a problem.  Finding time to record and write about them has. DSC_0003

But last month, I retired from my day job.  So, now I have time and wine.

It still feels a little like an endless holiday.  But so far, I can confirm retirement is the best job I’ve ever had.

In celebration, while in the US, I bought this and opened it in February 2019 at 5 1/2 years old.

Deep garnet on the eyes, this 92% Syrah has a nose elevated with great fruit – blackberry and cassis – alongside purple flowers, light peppermint, pine tips and cured meat.

The palate is developed with layers of blackberry, salami, black olive, cedar, pine, and mint leaves.  Not boozy in the slightest despite the 14.5% abv, it’s absolutely ethereal for a red wine and enjoys a lengthy finish.  The 8% Viognier adds fruit and sets the Syrah to perfection.

And yes, the wine was much better and significantly more complex than the book.

WSET OutstandingDSC_0006

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Barolo, Ferdinando Principiano, Serralunga, Ravera di Montfort, Barolo DOCG, Italy, 2011, 15% abv. C$45

We enjoyed this just inside the recommended drinking window – I’m not patient when it comes to holding wine.

I was very nervous when I removed the capsule to find what looked to be a moldy cork.  It was dry and broke off when I opened it, but the wine was clean and unaffected.

Straight from Piedmonte, this wine is a pretty, translucent ruby on the eyes.  The aromas show a nose of cherry with dried leaf, petal and pomegranate.

The palate is dry with powdery tannins, some fresh and lightly developed fruit – strawberry and red plum – and significant dried grass, tarragon and cedar with dried rose petals.

WSET Very Good, and available worldwide.


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