Sunday, October 23, 2016

A quick trip to Spain, without leaving our townhouse

We decided to start having the occasional "theme night", where we would serve food and wine exclusively from whatever country we choose. We will be alternating from our place and our friends' place, every month or so.

Our first effort was at our place, and Spain was the chosen country. We actually started off the evening with a "draft", each of us picking our countries for future events. Even though we had chosen Spain, I demanded first pick and chose France, basically because we already are in possession of some decent Bordeaux that will make that a lot easier (and cheaper) than starting a France dinner from scratch.

I searched the web for some decent Spanish recipes, found some recommended wine pairings, and we were good to go. Click on the link if you want to see the full recipe.

Course 1:

The Food:

Easy Paella (from

I've never been a huge fan of paella but this was really terrific, everyone enjoyed it very much. The recommended wine pairing seemed odd to me, as they were suggesting a Tempranillo Rosé, but I stuck with their recommendation.

The Wine:

Marqués de Cáceres - 2015 Rioja Rosé ($15.99)

What a pleasant surprise. Floral bouquet of strawberries and raspberries. Fruity, elegant and refined all at the same time. And it was a TERRIFIC pairing with the paella. 88.

Course 2:

The Food:

Beef and Potato Empanadas (sort of)

My wife and I tried out this recipe a week before the event. We found that the filling was absolutely AMAZING. In fact we had an entire bowl of it, each, before making the empanadas. Once we put the filling into the pastry, though, it was underwhelming. Because of that, for our Spain theme night, we made the same filling but just served it with tortillas; so really more of a soft taco than an empanada. It was excellent served this way. Another big hit.

The Wine:

We didn't specifically have a wine to pair with this, but we had this wine for the evening so we tried it.

Viento Aliseo - 2013 Viognier ($15.99)

Notes of white flowers and citrus on the nose and the palate. Pleasant but underwhelming and honestly, not a match for the food, which isn't that surprising. 86.

Course 3:

The Food:

Pork with Grilled Vegetable Pisto

This was a pretty good recipe, the flavors were well integrated and it paired very well with the recommended tempranillo. The issue is that it was really quite a pain in the ass to make the vegetable pisto. This is the only recipe that I doubt we ever make again.

The Wine:

Anciano 2005 Tempranillo ($17.99)

I admit it, I'm a sucker for a good Tempranillo, and when they come to you aged for a decade, and at this price, how can you go wrong? All kinds of strong aromas here; black fruit, balsamic vinegar, leather and tobacco. Red fruit dominates the palate, with smooth and supple tannins and a long finish. At this price, a steal. 89.

I will admit, I was by far the biggest fan of this wine. The other dinner guests were underwhelmed. They are wrong :)

Course 4:

Chicken with Catalan Picada

Seriously, this was insanely good. The hints of chocolate that come through were not something I've experience before with chicken, but we cannot wait to make this recipe again. Everyone agreed this was a true highlight of the night. It was recommended to pair this with a Grenache.

The Wine:

Scala Dei - 2007 Cartoixa ($57.99)

A blend of Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Notes of red fruit, chocolate and vanilla on the nose. Fruity, juicy and delicious on the palate. A real treat, and my wife, who generally dislikes Grenache, was a big fan. It's not cheap, but it's worth the money. 92.

Course 5:

Churros Con Chocolate 

Delicous. Churros rule, and the chocolate sauce was a nice add. We added cinnamon, which may not be "traditional" Spanish churros, but whatever. Suck it, Spain.

The Wine:

OK so we didn't have a Spanish dessert wine, per se, but there is one winery in BC that produces a Maderia-style wine, so that was pretty close. I reviewed in it my last blog post, here.

Since we were almost done with the meal and had not had quite enough wine yet, and I was out of wine from Spain, we cracked open this bad boy from a BC winery that makes wine in a Portugese style. Spain, Portugal, same thing. No, really.

Quinta Ferreira 2009 Obra-Prima ($35.00)

Aromas of bell pepper are prevalent, with some black cherry and vanilla lingering in the background. Cedar, cherry, mocha, bell pepper and vanilla on the palate. Long, juicy finish, with some hard Xmas candy coming through at the end. 88.

I was pleasantly surprised how good the food was, how good the wine was, and how good most of them went together and added to the experience. With the holidays coming up, our next event will be in mid-January, and I will report on that after it happens. Country TBD.

That's it for today: next up, our next Okanagan trip begins at Moon Curser!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Okanagan Trip continues with a truly fantastic meal, and oh yeah, some wine, at Cedarcreek

First of all, let me tell you a bit about our lunch at Terrace Restaurant.

The wife ordered a pork dish that was the best she had ever tasted. And it wasn't just the way the dish was cooked, it was the pork itself. Sourced from Hoggard Farms, a local (Okanagan) farm that raises the pork naturally, no antibiotics, hormones or steroids. It was absolutely fantastic. I haven't had much luck finding this pork locally in Chilliwack, but I will keep trying.

After our special lunch, off to a private tasting of a large portion of their portofolio:

Cedarcreek 2014 Riesling ($15.29)

Lovely nose of slate, tropical fruit and green apple. The apple follows through on the palate, married to some pineapple. A true value wine, at this price, it's ridiculously good. 89.

Cedarcreek 2015 Ehrenfelser ($16.99)

Tropical fruit dominates the nose, with hints of white flowers. Citrus fruits and a bit of spice on the palate, featuring a bit of tropical fruit at the end. 87.

Cedarcreek 2015 Pinot Gris ($17.99)

Notes of pear and lychee on the nose. Hot and dry on the palate, 14.1% alcohol. Pear and a touch of honey on the palate. 88.

Cedarcreek 2014 Chardonnay ($16.99) 

Aromas of tropical fruit, peach, orange and butterscotch. No maloactic ferminataion but still lots of butterscotch on the finish. Delicious. 90.

Cedarcreek 2014 Platinum Reserve Block 5 Chardonnay ($27.99)

Fruity aromas of red apple. The palate features complex notes of stone fruit, apple, butterscotch and balance acidity. Will likely improve with some more time in the bottle. 90.

Cedarcreek 2010 Platinum M ($52.99)

100% Chardonnay

Fortified Madeira-style wine, the only one in the Okanagan, shows pleasing aromas of brazil nuts, hazelnuts and orange rind. Complex layers of fruit flavors including apricots. Nuts all over the place on the finish. Such a treat, we currently have one of these open in our fridge for anytime we feel like a 'nightcap'. 90.

Cedarcreek 2013 Platinum Block 2 Pinot Noir ($55.99)

Lovely feminine floral aromas, violets, black pepper and allspice. Black cherry really dominates the palate, with a touch of gamey meat as well. Will age beautifully. 91.

Cedarcreek 2013 Platinum Block 4 Pinot Noir ($55.99)

Much more full and masculine than it's above cousin. Earth and chocolate on the nose. Mocha and a bit of spice joins in with the cherry and tobacco on the palate. Another one that will age gracefully. 92.

Cedarcreek 2013 Merlot ($17.99)

Terrific notes of cherry, vanilla and baking spices. The palate notices some cherry, vanilla and a nutty finish. Another really solid bargain. 91.

Cedarcreek 2013 Platinum Reserve Desert Ridge Merlot ($37.99)

Beautiful aromas of cherry cola, earth and cinnamon, Black currant, vanilla and cedar come through on the palate. Nice long finish. Needs some time to really develop but shows lots of promise. 90-92.

Cedarcreek 2014 Syrah ($22.29)

The first Estate Syrah they have ever done (I think?), it's actually 86% Syrah with a bit of Malbec, Viognier, Merlot and Cabernet Franc as well. White pepper dominates the nose, with a touch of red plum thrown in for good measure. The pepper continues onto the beautiful palate, with notes of dark fruit. Tannins are smooth and finish is long. 91.

Cedarcreek 2013 Meritage ($22.99)

36% Malbec
35% Cab. Sauv.
28% Merlot
1% Cab. Franc

A touch of mint mingles with the vanilla and floral aromas. A ridiculously high amount of Malbec but it really works. Blackberry, blueberry and just a hint of dark chocolate on the palate. Another really good value. 91.

Cedarcreek 2013 Platinum Reserve Desert Ridge Meritage ($40.49)

Beautiful, intoxicating notes of dark berries and mint. Is that a bit of fruitcake I smell? Long luscious finish with all kinds of fruit on the palate. Absolutely beautiful, a real triumph and I can't wait to see how much it improves with some time. 94.

That was it for our tasting, but we picked up a couple bottles of their brand new high-end Bordeaux blend and have since opened it:

Cedarcreek 2013 The Last Word ($77.99)

34% Cab. Sauv.
32% Merlot
24% Cab. Franc
10% Malbec

Blackberry, black cherry, spice and graphite make up the pleasant nose. The palate turns to black fruit, a touch of spice and dense earth. Drinking well now but who knows how high it will go with a bit more time? 92-94.

A couple more random wines from this winery we have enjoyed in the recent past:

Cedarcreek 2015 Rosé ($19.99)

100% Pinot Noir. Aromas of raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb. Strawberry dominates the juicy palate, and this is really lovely. Enjoy it on the patio with friends and another bottle. 89.

Cedarcreek 2013 The Senator's Red ($18.99)

Red fruit, a touch of spice and blackberry on the nose. Juicy and pleasing palate of strawberry, mint, dark fruit. A nice everyday red for the price. 88.

This ends this Okanagan trip, but fear not, true believers, lots more to come in another Okanagan visit about a month after this one.

But next up: A special night of wine and food pairing that we hosted, called the "Taste of Spain". Good wine was consumed, trust me!

Friday, October 7, 2016

From Hills to Hills, man there are a lot of hills up here.....Okanagan report continues at Volcanic Hills

Lots to taste and report on, so let's get started.

Seven Directions 2015 Rose ($24.26)

I can't remember if we were told why they were tasting this different label of wine, must be a connection somehow. Aromas of pink grapefruit, orange ride and strawberry. The grapefruit, thanksfully, subsides on the palate. Juicy and lovely. 89.

Volcanic Hills 2015 Pinot Gris ($15.69)

Pleasant aromas of pear, red apple and some minerality. Citrus dominates the palate, with well balanced acidity. Tasty. 90.

Volcanic Hills 2014 Gewurztraminer ($15.69)

Rose water and lychee on the nose. Slightly off-dry palate with notes of peach, citrus and grapefruit. 87.

Volcanic Hills 2014 Single Vineyard Gewurztraminer ($19.49)

Pleasing aromas of honeysuckle, lychee and roses. Just a hint of spice. Slightly sweeter than it's cousin above. Orchard fruits, lychee and citrus notes intertwine on the palate. This is really delicious and would pair beautifully with almost any spicy cuisine. 91.

Volcanic Hills 2013 Reserve Chardonnay ($25.00)

Light aromas of oak, vanilla and citrus. Pineapple on the palate. Light and fresh. 87.

Volcanic Hills 2013 Magma Red ($15.59)

Aromas of cherry, raspberry and a hint of spice. Black cherry, strawberry and black plum flavors. Just a hint of pepper shows itself on the finish. A good bargain. 87.

Volcanic Hills 2011 Pinot Noir ($21.79)

Earthiness dominates the nose. Mushroom, forest floor and dark cherry. The palate is light and closed off, suggesting this still needs quite a bit of time to develop the flavors. 86.

Volcanic Hills 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.00)

Black currant, blackberry and raspberry on the nose. Black fruit on the juicy palate, hints of vanilla and pepper on the long finish. 89.

Volcanic Hills 2011 Late Harvest Zweigelt ($17.39)

Aromas of fig and raisins. Those follow through to the palate, joined by some pleasing strawberry. 87.

Volcanic Hills 2015 Pinot Noir Icewine ($26.10)

Strawberry, tangerine, citrus and honeysuckle on the nose and the palate. Juicy, sweet and terrific. 89.

Volcanic Hills 2015 Chardonnay Icewine ($26.10)

Aromas of orange marmalade, lemon meringue pie and honey. The orange and citrus follow down to the palate, with a touch of vanilla creme brulee as well. So good. 90.

Volcanic Hills 2015 Riesling Icewine ($26.10)

Strong aromas of lemon curd. Lemon dominates the palate, with sweet lemon meringue pie flavors mixing in with a touch of honey. 89.

Volcanic Hills 2012 Zweigelt Icewine ($26.10)

Peach, strawberry and raisins on the nose. Some beautiful hints of milk chocolate joins the fruit on the palate. The time in the bottle has brought out some terrific characteristics. 90.

Nice to get to try a bunch of different kinds of dessert wines, my favorite....and lots of good table wine as well. Always an underrated winery!

Next up: A special private tasting at Cedarcreek!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Okanagan Trip report continues as we go way, way up the Hill

Mission Hill.

The most well-known winery in BC. As close to a giant as it gets in the world of Okanagan wine making. the WINE any good?

I've been hard on them in the past, for sure, even going so far as to call them the "Frass Canyon" of the Okanagan. The wine just wasn't any good. Having said that, a few years ago after the owner of Mission Hill bought Cedarcreek, they moved Cedarcreek's talented winemaker, Darryl Brooker, over to Mission Hill. As fans of Cedarcreek, this worried us a bit, but so far there has been no noticeable decline in the quality of the wines at Cedarcreek. The good news is that the last few times we have tasted Mission Hill wines, the quality seems to have increased significantly. It's almost as if a great winemaker actually matters :)

The winery received worldwide attention in 2013 when their 2011 Martin's Land Pinot Noir was named "Best Pinot Noir in the world under £15" at Decanter World Wine Awards, one of the world's leading wine competitions.

It's been years since we've been here; on our last visit we didn't even taste the wine because the tasting room was so busy. There are no doubts that the grounds are incredible; as beautiful as anything you can see in BC.

We've tasted most of their portfolio many times at various tastings around the Lower Mainland, but let's see how our first tasting at the actual winery went.

First, I notice they are selling an opportunity to taste their high-end wines (Perpetua, Compendium, Quatrain and Oculus). We inquire but the tastings are only available on the hour but we don't have time to wait, so maybe next time.

We pony up to the tasting bar, herded like sheep in the crowds. It's busy but not crazy, we are able to get enough room to taste. We are greeted by a young man who immediately informs us that the tasting fee is $8 per person, and we have to pay IN ADVANCE. And although it can be refundable, it takes a TWO bottle purchase (twice as much as most wineries) to get your $8 back. Good grief. That's not a great way to start the tasting. Oh and another thing that drives me nuts, their entry-level wines (if you ignore the "Five Vineyards" line) are called their Reserve tier. To the average consumer, that is incredibly misleading. Reserve should be something special.

Mission Hill 2014 Reserve Riesling ($20.29)

Fragrant orange blossom and green apple notes on the nose and they continue through to the palate. Slightly off-dry and very juicy and well-balanced. 89.

Mission Hill 2015 Reserve Pinot Blanc ($20.29)

Pears dominate the nose and continue on to the palate where they are joined by notes of oak and cinnamon. 86.

Mission Hill 2013 Martin's Lane Pinot Noir ($65.00)

Two vintages removed from their worldwide success (and it's certainly bumped way up in price), aromas of plum, cherry and forest floor. Juicy and pleasant palate of sage, black cherry and vanilla. Perfectly decent, but certainly not something worth getting too crazy excited about. 89.

At this point in the tasting, the lady from the front desk who we had talked to about the private tasting comes over to suggest if we want to taste the Oculus, they can bring it to us out here (for the same price of $29). That's good service and we take her up on the offer. They bring us the wine and we leave it there for now to open up a bit while we finish the other wines.

Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Shiraz ($23.49)

Amazing nose of dark fruit, particularly blueberry. Cherries, black plums and dark chocolate on the palate. Long and pleasant finish. Really nice, our favorite of the Reserve tier. 90.

Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Merlot ($24.99)

Nice aromas of plum, vanilla and mocha. Flavors of coffee and vanilla, with herbaceous notes mingling in there as well. 89.

Mission Hill 2012 Terroir Collection No 23. Crosswinds Syrah ($60.00)

Intense notes of black fruit on the nose. The palate finds lots of cocoa and tobacco with some herbs on the finish. Has potential but tannins are closed, suggesting further aging would greatly enhance. 89-91.

Mission Hill 2011 Oculus ($126.00)

71% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc

Pleasant aromas of fig, boysenberry, plum and red cherry. Cherries, black fruit and anise on the palate. Herbs and a touch of spice on the long finish. Pleasant now but will get much, much better. 92-94.

Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Merlot Icewine ($60.00)

Aromas and flavors of red cherries, apricots, honey, strawberry and caramel. The first ever Merlot icewine to come out of Mission Hill and it's really terrific. 93.

So, the verdict? Although I'm still not a fan of the fast-food feel of the tasting room, there is little doubt that the wine is improving every year. There wasn't a bad wine in the bunch.

Next up: the trip continues at Volcanic Hills !!