Saturday, April 29, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 2, this is a review you don't want to miss

We had just enough time to head to Tantalus to taste their portfolio before we had another appointment booked, so off we were. If you are not familiar with Tantalus, they are world-renowned for their Rieslings and that's pretty much all they do....a couple other varietals but they subscribe to the theory of doing a few things and doing them very well. Let's get to it.

Tantalus 2015 Juveniles Chardonnay ($17.30)

Notes of citrus and white flowers on the nose. Reminiscent of a Pinot Gris, with citrus and pineapple flavors. 87.

Tantalus 2014 Chardonnay ($26.00)

Aromas of elderflower, coconut and toasty oak. The palate features toasted almonds, citrus and a touch of butterscotch. 88.

Tantalus 2016 Riesling ($19.91)

Interesting aromas of lemon-lime, mango and wet stone. Beautifully balanced acidity and flavors of lime, pineapple, stone fruit and ginger. Beautiful now and will improve with careful cellaring. 90.

Tantalus 2016 Riesling Lab ($16.43)

Pineapple, grapefruit and lemon on the nose. Fruity, young, and drinkable now. Slightly off-dry and made to enjoy upon release. Flavors of pineapple, apricot and honeysuckle. Terrific bargain. 90.

Tantalus 2014 Old Vines Riesling ($30.35)

Made from nearly 40-year old vines and it really shows. Notes of citrus, pineapple, guava and petrol. Flavors of green apple, tropical fruit and passionfruit. Gripping acidity. Lay this baby down for up to a decade and you will not be disappointed. 92.

Tantalus 2016 Rosé ($19.04)

60% Pinot Noir/40% Pinot Meunier
Fruity aromas of strawberry and watermelon with just the slightest hint of basil. Berries dominate the palate with high acidity. Definitely a food wine. 87.

Tantalus 2015 Juveniles Pinot Noir ($21.65)

Notes of cranberry, raspberry and mint. The palate features cherry, spice, with a touch of vanilla. Very nice, approachable entry-level Pinot. 88.

Tantalus 2014 Pinot Noir ($26.00)

Beautiful aromas of rich, black plum, earth, violet, black pepper and toasty oak. Dark cherries, red berries, granite, earth and a long, spicy finish. Just lovely. 92.

Tantalus 2015 Syrah Icewine ($65.13)

Intense aromas of strawberry, rhubarb and bitter cherry. Red fruits and blackberry jam on the palate with a long, beautiful finish. 93.

Now, you've made it this far, and you are wondering "what is this review I just can't miss????". Wait no longer.

Tantalus 2015 Riesling Icewine ($65.13)

I actually have to take a deep breath while writing this review so I don't get overexcited. It starts off with the most beautiful, exotic aromas of pineapple, red apple, honey, citrus and caramel.

The palate features pineapple flavors all day long. They are not alone, with sweet apple pie, lemon meringue pie and even some peach and nectarine making appearances. It's sweet as you would expect with an Icewine, but not sickingly so; complex and brilliant, with a finish that goes on forever. For only the second time in the history of my wine blog, I can proclaim that this wine has reached the pinnacle of perfection. 100.

I actually gave their 2014 version 99 points, so I think I'm just going to have to keep coming here and tasting their Riesling Icewine every single year. Just wow.

Up next: tour and private tasting at Cedarcreek!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 1, begins at Quails' Gate

After arriving at The Nest (check it out here), one of Quails' Gate's vacation properties, for our three night stay, we were almost immediately off to our dinner reservations at their multi-award winning restaurant, Old Vines.

I'm not generally one who takes pictures of his food unless it is really special...but I wish I had done that here, because the food was incredible, top to bottom, and the presentation was second to none. For example my appetizer, carrot soup, was brought to me with basically an empty soup bowl with just a few hunks of chorizo in it. At the time I thought to myself "hmm, I'm already done and don't remember eating".

Alas, the soup was in a different container, and was poured into my bowl at the table. A neat touch. Of course, if the soup wasn't any good that would have been wasted effort, but as I mentioned previously, ALL the food was amazing. I had a very special halibut dish as my main, two of my dining companions had Cornish Game Hen, and the other one had a HUGE pork chop. By the time we were done with the entrees, 3 decadent deserts and 2 bottles of wine, well let's just say we all left the restaurant more than satisfied.

We started off the night with this beautifully aged treasure:

Quails' Gate 2003 Dry Riesling Reserve ($75.00)

This might be the first wine I've had from the Okanagan from 2003, the year of the great fire. I've heard that it's possible to actually taste the fire in some of the wines, but we did not get that here. This 14-year old wine is lively and the aromas jump from the glass. The petrol notes that generally develop in aged Riesling are there but much less prevalent as you might expect. Tons of fruit left, beautiful notes of lemon and lime with impressive levels of minerality. This was very much enjoyed by all, which was really obvious to anyone who noticed how fast it disappeared! 93.

Up next, we moved to another favorite white grape:

Quails' Gate 2008 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay ($60.00)

Intense aromas of butterscotch, hazelnut, melon, peach and citrus. Complex and decadent. Aging beautifully with just the right amount of buttery flavors and a rich mouthfeel. Drinking exceptionally well now. 92.

While we were perusing the dessert menus, over came 4 glasses of this, with their compliments:

Quails' Gate 2015 Optima ($27.00 375ml)

Aromas of cinnamon poached pears, orange blossom and apricot. Beautiful fruit flavors mingle with notes of honey. My dinner companions went crazy for this. I liked it too, don't get me wrong, but I always figure when it comes to the dessert wines, go big or go home. This isn't as sweet as I like them. 89. I ordered a glass of this:

Quails' Gate 2014 Fortified Vintage Foch ($22.00 375 ml)

Foch is not always my thing. Fortified wines not always my thing. This one is my thing. Baking spices, raisins, apples, dark chocolate and cherry on the nose. Cherry really takes over on the palate, with a rich and luscious mouthfeel that feels like it never finishes and pairs beautifully with the rich desserts. 91.

Back to The Nest after dinner where we sat on the patio and enjoyed this bottle of their new flagship wine, which was left for us compliments of the winery.

Quails' Gate 2015 Pinot Noir ($25.00)

Sweet red berry aromas, baking spices and just a slight touch of earth. Pretty impressive for a brand new Pinot, and this is only going to get better and better with age. We enjoyed this a lot. 89.

So that was the end of night 1, but after a night of rest, we were up and at'em early to hit some more wineries. Given the "Quails' Gate" theme of this post, I'll skip over our morning appointments and go right to our tasting and tour that our concierge had booked for us. We were warmly greeted by Jan, who proceeded to take us on a terrific tour (my wife and I had toured here before, our guests had not) and show us the nuts and bolts of one of our favorite spots. Suddenly we were all very thirsty (amazing how that happens at wineries) and it was time to taste a bunch of their new wine.

Being members of their Barrel Club, there are no wines that we have never seen before, but many of the wines we were about to taste were new vintages, OR perhaps we had received them in recent club shipments but had not yet tasted them. In fact, of the 14 wines we were about to taste, only TWO of them had been tasted previously, one of those being the Pinot from the night before.

Let's get to it. All the prices below are regular public prices (not club member pricing) and do not include taxes.

Quails' Gate 2016 Chenin Blanc ($17.00)

We NEVER taste Chenin this young, we get this in our club shipments every year and toss it into the cellar to forget about it for a few years. This is a grape that we in Canada, IMO, don't let age enough. This one had a pleasant nose of citrus fruit and stone fruit. Citrus and orchard fruits dominate the palate, but if you pay close enough attention, you will notice a touch of fresh grass on the finish, contributed by the small percentage of Sauvignon Blanc that is mixed in. 89.

Quails' Gate 2006 Dry Riesling ($35.00)

Yup, 2006 from the cellar. This was the only other wine I had previously tasted and enjoyed, Review is here.

Quails' Gate 2015 Dry Riesling ($15.00)

See my comments about Chenin Blanc and "ditto" on Riesling.
Aroms of lemon, lime and hints of stone fruit. Minerality is developing and the acidity is intense but well-balanced. Citrus flavors dominate. 89.

Quails' Gate 2015 Chardonnay ($20.00)

Toasty oak, light buttery notes, hazelnut, pear, citrus and butterscotch. Buttery and delicious palate but not overpowering. This is a winner year in and year out. 89.

And let me just point out the prices on the last few wines. We will get into some pricier stuff in a minute, but the wines above are all of RIDICULOUSLY high quality for the money. In terms of bang for your buck, tough to do much better.

Quails' Gate 2014 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay ($35.00)

Beautiful aromas of butterscotch and hazelnut as you might expect, with nectarines, peaches and apples coming along for the ride. The palate features baked pears, a touch of peach, butterscotch and just a hint of spice on the long finish. So good now, and will only get better. 91.

Quails' Gate 2014 Rosemary's Block Chardonnay ($40.00)

Intense and complex aromas abound: hazelnut, white flowers, stone fruit, lemon, red apple and butterscotch. The flavors are just as intense and just as complex, with hints of toasty oak, hazelnut, butterscotch, vanilla and citrus. This is absolutely delicious and will probably improve for another 5-6 years. 93.

Quails' Gate 2016 Lucy's Block Rosé ($20.00)

They don't technically call this a reserve but that's basically what it is. A single-vineyard beauty featuring a 50/50 split of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Light pink in colour, with aromas of strawberry and just a touch of spice. Strawberry, cranberry and pink grapefruit flavors. This was just released and is probably just getting over bottle shock, which is really exciting, because if it's this good now, just wait a few weeks. 91.

Quails' Gate 2014 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir ($45.00)

If their Pinot Noir is the flagship wine, I'll call this one the "Flagship for Fine Wine Lovers". I don't want to overstate things and say they've hit a "Home Run" with this vintage, but it's no less than a stand-up Triple, I'll tell you that. Aromas of black cherry, baking spices, strawberry and vanilla. Elegant and full of finesse with a finish that makes you beg for more. The strawberry, cherry and spice flavors mingle together with an ease rarely found in a BC Pinot Noir this young. I have a couple of these in my cellar and it's possible they may not improve much, but that's only a testament to how good this is already. 94.

Quails' Gate 2014 Old Vines Foch Reserve ($45.00)

Aromas of black cherry, dark chocolate and earth. This is a big and bold wine, great for pairing with huge, gamey meats. Flavors of cherry, raspberry and smoked meat. 90.

Quails' Gate 2014 Merlot ($22.00)

Aromas of dark fruit, plum, vanilla and dark chocolate. Smoky, brooding flavors of dark fruits and toasty oak. 90.

Quails' Gate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($27.00)

2014 featured perfect conditions for this varietal and it shows. Black currant, blackberry, vanilla, cinnamon, mint and mocha on the nose. Black fruits dominate the palate. Beautiful long finish. This is a real winner and is so, so young. 92.

Quails' Gate 2014 The Boswell Syrah ($53.00)

Beautiful fragrant notes of violets, white pepper, blackberry and cloves. Definitely an "Old World" style Syrah, with rich, deep, brooding flavors of black fruit and well balanced acidity. Special. 93.

Quails' Gate 2014 The Connemara ($56.00)

Their new Bordeaux-style blend features 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. Dark flowers, dark chocolate, black fruit, spice and strawberry on the nose. Dark fruit and dark chocolate on the palate, with a touch of spice and vanilla on the long, beautiful finish. We have a few of these in our cellar and were delighted to taste what is to come; and it was very special. 94.

That's it for the first post of this trip. I would be remiss if I didn't thank Stella, our concierge, and Jan, our tour guide, for the first-class service we received from each of them during our Quails' Gate portion of the weekend.

Next up: Tantalus, and a pretty special bottle of wine. A review for the ages. Don't miss it.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A taste of South Africa, without the heat !!

Our monthly "theme night" took place this past weekend and as always, it featured good company, good wine, and good food. I was totally unfamiliar with South African cuisine before this and it took quite a bit of research to find good recipes (especially ones without curry, which we don't like). But find them, I did. Links to all the recipes are below.

Course 1

There isn't a lot on this salad that I like, but my wife and guests were bigger fans than I. The simple 3-ingredient dressing was simple to prepare and delicious.

The wine:

Rustenberg 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($17.99)

Flavors and aromas of citrus, grass and tropical fruit. Light on the nose and the palate, well balanced acidity. Paired nicely with the salad but a bit underwhelming. 86.

Course 2

Pan Seared Scallops with Bacon Jam and Truffle Corn Puree

Wow. Not only was this the dish of the night, by a country mile, it might be the best thing I've cooked, EVER. Absolutely fantastic. My wife, who is allergic, thoroughly enjoyed hers as well, which featured chicken medallions standing in for the Scallops. I didn't even put any truffle oil in, but that would give it a further kick. I will be making this again for sure. 

The wine:

Rustenberg 2014 Chardonnay ($32.99)

Light notes of butterscotch, citrus and hazelnut. Hints of toasted almond, with lime, orange and butterscotch on the palate. Lovely but a bit less spectacular than previous vintages. Perfect pairing with the scallops. 89.

Course 3

Braai'd Baby Potatoes

These were beautifully spiced and really delicious. It's a recipe I will make again and again anytime I'm looking for this type of potato dish.

The wine:

Previously reviewed and my opinion did not change. 

Rustenberg 2009 Five Soldiers Chardonnay ($59.99)

Aged 18 months in oak and undergoing 100% maloactic fermentation, I was surprised at the subtlety of the buttery notes on the nose and palate. Dominated by citrus, peach and melon aromas and flavors. Creamy and long finish. 90.

Course 4

Really simple, really unusual and really tasty. This version of South African "relish" can pair with any protein. We ate it on it's own in order to really get a sense of it and it was well received.

The wine:

De Morgenzon 2015 Reserve Chenin Blanc ($37.99 USD online)

Pleasing aromas of honeysuckle, pear and apple with intense mineral notes. Red apple flavors are dominant, with touches of peach, papaya and pineapple. Long finish. Superb. 92.

Course 5

We left out any curry powder from any recipe as we despise curry. This very traditional South African dish was terrific and quite different than what we know as meatloaf. I HATED the rice, but others enjoyed it. 

 The wine:

Cirrus 2007 Syrah ($41.99)

Lovely notes of earth, mushroom and red cherry. The palate features cherry, earth, a touch of spice with chewy tannins and a long finish. Really coming into it's own after a decade. So good and a nice pair with the Bobotie. 92.

Course 6

Another very traditional South African dish which I would describe as a thick stew. In the video, Siba makes this dish with lamb necks but since I don't like lamb and have no idea where I'd find lamb necks, I subsitituted Oxtail (which Siba mentions was how her mother made it). I'd never worked with Oxtail before, and it was difficult to get off the bone; but it did flavor the dish nicely. This was interesting and I'm glad I tried it, but doubt we'll make it again.

The wine:

The Grinder 2014 Pinotage ($14.99)

Notes of violets and dark chocolate on the nose. The palate is very chocolaty, with just a touch of spice. 87.

Course 7

The main event of the evening and although it was seasoned very nicely and cooked perfectly, the meat was so tough it was virtually inedible. I would make this again but use a much better cut of meat than the rump steak that was suggested in this recipe.

The wine:

De Toren 2008 Fusion V ($61.99)

Intense notes of black licorice mingles with baking spices. The licorice sticks around on the palate, with toasty oak flavors and a very long finish. This was really spectacular and probably would have paired beautifully with the steak had it been edible!!! 94.

So that's it for South Africa night, which I think was a huge success. Some really interesting recipes and we have a few more good recipes to try next time that this country rolls around.

Next up for theme nights is (I believe Australia). Next up for the wine blog is a report on a weekend trip to the Okanagan that we are taking in about 6 hours.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Take Me to Church .....and pour me a wine so good it cracks the "Best of the Best"

Take me to church
I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I'll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife
Offer me my deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

- Hozier

Take me to Church (and State)
I'll worship like a dog at your beautiful shrine
I'll tell you my sins so you can pour me your wine
Offer me your fantastic grapes
Good God, please give me more wine

 - Engemoen

My Grammy awaits.

My GOD, who will I take as my date to the Grammys?!! I could take my wife I suppose, but that's too predictable. I wonder what Taylor Swift is doing? EngeSwift? Hmm. Not bad,

Woah, hang on, I think I blacked out for a second there. OK back to reality. And back to wine.

Church & State 2014 Signature Series Merlot ($35.00)

Beautiful, intense aromas of black fruit, red cherry, mint, cold cuts and a touch of savory herbs. The palate is incredibly complex, incredibly rich, the tannins are incredibly smooth for a wine this young, the flavors of sweet cherry, baking spice, mocha, herbs and black fruit combine effortlessly. Finishes incredibly long. Did you notice how many times I said "incredibly" in this review? That wasn't an accident. Superb. At this price point, anyone who buys it should be led away in handcuffs. 95.

 That's the big one for today, but a few other nice wines to talk about, including another three from these guys:

Church & State 2015 Viognier ($25.00)

Strong notes of orchard fruits dominate the nose with pretty white flowers lingering in the background. The orchard fruit stays through the palate, joined by some sweet bread on the finish. Lovely. 89.

Church & State 2010 Gravelbourg Vineyard Chardonnay ($27.00)

Toasty oak and butterscotch with a bit of floral notes. Palate features some sweet hazelnut and butterscotch flavors. 89

Church & State 2011 Gravelbourg Vineyard Chardonnay ($27.00)

More floral and less buttery than the above. Palate still features some hazelnut and butterscotch flavors, with higher acidity. 88.

Black Hills 2016 Alibi ($24.90)

75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon

Pineapple, lemon rind, tropical fruit and grassy notes on the nose. There is just a hint of spice that shows through, joining the tropical fruit and lemon. Still very young but showing a ton of promise. 88.

Quails' Gate 2012 The Boswell Syrah ($61.05)

Previously reviewed here not long after release. At the time I suggested we had opened it too early. The extra 18 months changed it a lot, but the improvement was minimal. The nose didn't change much, still strong hints of blackberry, coffee and spice. The palate was a whole new world, however, as the coffee flavors were incredibly prevalent. A tiny bit of tobacco showed up as well. 89

I have a couple more of these, we will see if further time in the bottle changes it again.

Next up: Next weekend, our next theme night as we tackle the food and wine of South Africa!

That's it for today, and I leave you with the video for the song that served as the inspiration for today's blog. WARNING: If you haven't seen this yet, it is controversial and a bit disturbing to say the least.

Next up: Next weekend, our next theme night as we tackle the food and wine of South Africa!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Oh, Canada, My Home and Native Oh enough of this bring me the damn wine!!!

Our most recent "theme night" was an interesting one; maybe the most difficult one? OK the wine was easy, but the food? What exactly is "Canadian" food? Just how much poutine and maple syrup can you serve at dinner?

Our dear friends Travis and Melissa put on quite a show and impressed all despite the challenges. Let's get to it.

Benjamin Bridge 2011 Brut ($45.99)

Top notch bubbly from Ontario. 100% Chardonnay. Light aromas of citrus and yeast. Citrus and green apple dominate the palate. Tasty, and it went very well with the suggested pairing, and how Canadian it was....Ms. Vickie's potato chips!! 88.

Food Part Deux

OK so I love me some shrimp, and I hate me some mango. Usually. This was absolutely a fantastic recipe, and the pairing with the shrimp took away the strongest part of the mango flavor and made it quite tasty. This was really well done.

The wine pairing:

Devonian Coast Wineries 2015 Jost Tidal Bay, from Nova Scotia. I previously reviewed it in my Wine Fest blog, here.

Food Part Trois

Potato and Cheese Pierogies with Bacon Bits and Sour Cream

Technically, pierogies are from the Ukraine, but this is a dish that has been adopted by Canada, particularly the Prairie provinces...and the way they were cooked is definitely all Canadian. They were so delicious (and they were even Gluten Free, which is not normal for pierogies!).

The wine pairing:

St. Hubertus 2014 Riesling ($16.95)

Exciting aromas of citrus and stone fruit. Well balanced acidity and a palate featuring a hint of spice, pineapple and citrus. This paired beautifully with the food. 88.

Food Part Four, eh?

Another fabulous recipe, I'm going to steal this one and make it myself. The salmon was so beautifully cooked and it was a perfect pairing with the wine below:

Foxtrot Vineyards 2013 The Waltz Pinot Noir ($54.99)

Bright red fruits on the nose, with just a touch of earth and spice. Beautiful red fruits and black fruits on the palate. Tannins still exhibiting some tight qualities, indicating this is going to get better with a little more time, but it's already drinking lovely. 90-92.

No doot aboot it, Food Part Five

OK I've never been a huge fan of poutine. Fries are not my favorite. Gravy on fries? Meh. Cheese curds? Ew. Curds?

I'm reminded of that nursery rhyme by famed 20th Century Poet, Andrew Dice Clay:

Little Miss Muffett sat on her tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider who sat down beside her and said:
"Hey! What's in the bowl, b*tch????"

Ah, the 1990's. The world was different then. It was a simpler time.

OK back to the food, it was freaking amazing. So good I will actually make this for my next non-Canadian-themed party or BBQ. Loved it.

The wine pair:

Laughing Stock 2014 Syrah ($33.99)

This BC winery is making some absolutely special wine. There is just enough Viognier blended in here to bring out some feminine qualities, aromas and flavors of violets. And the Viognier tempers the spice just enough. You'll get black pepper on the finish, but not overwhelmingly so. Delicious. 92.

So yeah, now, it's dessert time, right?

Nanaimo Bars

I should call these the "world's greatest Nanaimo bars" and they are from a secret family recipe. Did I say SECRET? But I, with my infinite wisdom and my unparalleled charisma, have managed to discover the recipe.

Nanaimo Bars Recipe
The wine:

Black Widow 2013 Vintage One Fortified ($23.00)

So good, and I reviewed this one during our last Okanagan trip, here. 

So that's it, tons of good Canadian wine, tons of great food, and tons of great company. Our "theme nights" have become a rousing success.

Remember at the start of this blog post when I suggested Canada night might be the most difficult one to cook?

I might have been wrong, and I know that because I've been trying to find some decent recipes for our next theme night, which is...


Oh boy. This one is gonna be a challenge.

That comes up in about two weeks; before that, I'll have some more random updates and let me tell you, there is some good wine, one in particular that will get added to my list of the very best wines I've had.