Sunday, February 25, 2018

BURGUNDY, baby, and oh my what a night......

When we originally split up the countries for our theme nights, I had drafted "France"...but it quickly became clear that there was just TOO MUCH great food and wine in France to cover it in a single night. Hell there is probably too much to cover in 10 nights, actually; but I decided to split it up into three.

1. Bordeaux, which we hosted last summer (refresh your memory here if you like)

2. BURGUNDY, which is this report

3. France - "Other", which will feature a host of wines from all the other regions of France. I'll be hosting this one in the late-spring/early-summer.

For this one I did less courses than I have done in the past, but a few of them were bigger portions. Lots of great wine available in Burgundy, of course, so food and wine pairings were fairly easy. I was looking forward to some of the terrific Chardonnays we were going to enjoy, and especially looking forward to sampling the oldest Pinot Noir I have ever tasted.

For those of you unfamiliar with wine from Burgundy, the red wines are all Pinot Noir (unless otherwise indicated) and the whites are all Chardonnay. Generally, if it says "Chablis" it is unoaked, and "Montrachet" is oaked. Let's get to it!

Premier Cours

First time I've ever made fondue in my life, and it was tasty, although it didn't thicken like I would have liked or expected. We just kept adding cheese until it got thick :) The vegetables that were suggested to go with it seemed really weird, but they worked...especially the Brussel Sprouts, which were a huge hit!

Domaine Laroche 2012 Chablis ($75.99 from Everything Wine)
Aromas of quince, citrus, peach, pear and strong minerality. Citrus, peach and pear flavors dominate, with well-balanced acidity and a nice finish. If unoaked Chardonnay is your thing, you will love this one.

Louis Latour 2015 Bourgogne ($28.99 from BC Liquor Stores)
Look closely at the bottle, you'll see it indicates "Pinot Noir". That right there is a sign that this is entry-level stuff, produced for the masses. True French wine (like almost all wine from the Old World) does not indicate the grape on the bottle. Still, even the 'cheap' stuff from a top producer like Latour is perfectly quaffable. Two-thirds of this bottle went into the Coq Au Vin. Aromas of blackberry, black cherry and herbs. Bitter cherry, earth and mushroom flavors with a medium finish. 

Deuxieme Cours

Coq Au Vin is about as traditionally French as you can get; the pot pie, notsomuch, but I thought I'd riff it up a bit when I saw this recipe. Delicious, and easy to put it all together the day before and then bake the pies just before serving them. 

Thibault Liger Belair 2012 Moulin-A-Vent ($52.99 from BC Liquor Stores)
The only non-Pinot Noir of the night, this comes from the Beaujolais sub-appelation. This is such a distinct sub-appelation that many consider Beaujolais as it's own region, but it is technically in South Burgundy so for tonight's purposes, I treated it as Burgundy. Gamay is the grape here, and that is not generally a grape I have enjoyed in the past. This one was terrific; just goes to show you, you just need to find the right wine. Sweet aromas of black cherry and earth, with mushroom, red cherry and earth flavors. Finishes very long. I will definitely have this again. It paired beautifully with the Coq Au Vin. 

A-F Gros 2015 Vosné Romanée Maizieres ($149.99 from Liberty Wines)

2015 is generally regarded as one of the all-time great vintages for red Burgundy, but of course they are still very, very young. As was recommended to me, this was decanted 4 hours.. Light fruity nose of red cherry and sagebrush. Herbaceous notes dominate the palate which also features some sweet red cherry and black tea. Delicious, if a bit pricey. 

Troisieme Cours

Admittedly, this recipe was a large pain in the ass to make. It was very good, but realistically too much trouble to make again except for a special event.

Philippe Colin 2013 Chassagne-Montrachet ($96.99 from BC Liquor Store)

Aerated and decanted for 5 hours. Aromas of hazelnut, red apple, pear and very slight buttery oak. Flavors of apple, lemon meringue pie and baking spices. Vibrant acidity and a lovely finish. Superb.
Domaine Joseph Faiveley 2015 Puligny-Montrachet ($99.99 USD from
Aerated and decanted for 5 hours. More buttery than the above on the nose and the palate. Aromas of baked pear and clove. Flavors of citrus and butterscotch are framed by well-balanced acidity. Delicious. 

Quatrieme Cours

This was superb, and a couple of the guests proclaimed it the "dish of the night". The herb sauce was a perfect compliment to the pastry. Really tasty!
Domaine de la Bongran 2003 Viré Clessé Cuveé Tradition ($52.99 from Liberty Wines)
Oh my, what an excellent example of what aging Chardonnay can do. Butterscotch, citrus and toasted almonds on the nose. Citrus, hazelnut and orange blossom flavors. Beautifully balanced with a long finish. A steal at this price. If you can find some, buy one. No, buy many. 

Cinquieme Cours

I had prepared a different version of Beef Bourguignon for Bordeaux night, and at the time had realized how incredibly stupid that was, given that it literally translates to "Beef Burgundy". Anyhoo, that notwithstanding, I went ultra-traditional with this, getting the recipe from the Master herself, Julia Child. It was a big hit, and my wife actually enjoyed it even more the next day. She insists I make this frequently, not just for special events.

Louis Jadot 1996 Corton-Pougats ($99.97 USD from

Aromas of moss-covered forest floor during a rainstorm. Virtually no fruit left on the nose but notes of black cherry and strawberry linger with the earthy notes on the palate. Still delicious at 22 years old.

Joseph Drouhin 2015 Clos des Mouches ($119.99 USD from
Also decanted 4 hours. Aromas of black fruit, leather and forest floor. Black cherry, rich earth, black plum flavors dominate the slightly dusty palate. Just delicious and I can only imagine how good this will be after a decade or so to settle down. So good. 

That's it! No dessert at all tonight, as I tried to stick to the theme and as far as I know, no dessert wine comes out of Burgundy.

Next up: Still have a lot of great wine to catch up on, and we are just DAYS AWAY from the 39th Annual Vancouver International Wine Festival. We have Gold Passes this year and we are going to be hitting this one hard. Full reports to come!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Great night of food and wine at first time "Theme-ers", and celebrating Portugal!!

Up until now, our "theme nights" had only been hosted by two different couples; that was all about to change as a third couple has joined our fun and they were about to take their first turn as hosts.

They were, to put it mildly, eager to impress....and they went ALL OUT!! Check out the menus and wine scoring cards!

We had joked all week that the food was just going to be catered by Nando's. LOL. Not quite :)

We've had many great theme nights so far, and food and wine pairings have been very important; less so, this time. These were hard dishes and wines to pair. Some worked well, some notsomuch, but individually each dish was very good. A total of nine courses:

1. Salada a Portuguese - Tomato Salad
2. Pasteis de Bacalhau - Codfish Cake
3. Carne Cuisada - Beef Stew
4. Marmelada Queijo - Cheese with Marmalade
5. Peri Peri Chicken (NO, not from Nando's, completely homemade and INCREDIBLY tasty)
6. Chourico & Batata - Sausage & Potatoes (like a spicy stew, delicious)
7. Cacoula - Pulled Pork Slider
8. Pastel de Nata - Egg Tart
9. Queijo - Selection of cheeses

Oh, and the wine? This is what we entered to.

So, yeah, if they felt like this was an "audition" to see if we would let them continue to host our theme nights, they were certainly going to make it impossible for us to say "no"!

So let's discuss the wine. I'll give the prices where I know them, or where I could find them. The hosts don't remember the prices of everything at this point either.

Quinta Ameal 2016 Loureiro 
Citrus and white flowers on the nose, with a strong, and I mean strong, backbone of minerality and flavors of lemon and lime. Medium finish. This was my first experience with the Loureiro grape, and I'll be intrigued to taste more at the VIWF coming up next week.

Casa Santa Lima 2016 Confidencial Reserva ($15.99 from BC Liquor Stores)
Called "Confidencial" because it is an unknown blend of 10 different grapes. Generally I am not a huge fan of wines that are cheap and combine a ton of grapes, but this one is a revelation. Aromatic blackberry, black cherry, plum and coffee on the nose. Medium bodied, with flavors of red cherry, dark chocolate and just a touch of spice. Medium finish. A real treat at this price.

Caves São João Quinta do Poço do Lobo 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark brown in colour. Aromas of cassis, leather, dark chocolate, tobacco and smoke. Dried cherries, cigar box, black fruit and leather on the palate. I would suggest this has peaked and is on it's way down but it was still very drinkable.

Anselmo Mendes 2016 Alvarinho Contacto ($24.00 at private BC wine shops)

"Contacto" refers to the additional time that the wine spent on the skins. Aromas of quince, buttered toast and perfume. Maybe a hint of mint? Pear on the palate, slightly buttery and nutty. My favorite Portugese white to this point, and it has me very excited to taste some more at the Festival next week. This wine was a big hit with the diners.

The host, Gagan, on the right, and one of the guests, both of whom were YOUNGER THAN THE WINE they were drinking!!
Yes, that's right, one of the next wines was older than 2 of the guests. I feel so fucking old.

Caves São João Portos Dos Cavaleiros DAO 1982 and 1988 (Both around $50 at Liberty Wines)
I wish I could rate these, but I can't remember which is which. I made such a mess out of my notes on these two....I liked one of them much more than the other, but I can't remember which one.

Not to worry, true believers....I took a bottle of each home and will crack them open soon with a big fat steak and review them again.

Quinta De Cabriz 2014 Dao ($unknown but I'm positive it's under $20)

Decanted for 2 hours. What a steal at this price. One diner described the nose on this wine as "AWESOME". I would agree. Blackberry, black cherry and cassis on the nose. Red cherry flavors, dried raspberry, with layers of spice and earth. Really nice. This was rated as #46 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2016.

Caves São João Quinta do Poço do Lobo 1988 and 1996 Bairrada
Despite the 8 years difference, I found these blends to be almost identical. Aromas of blackberry, black cherry, earth and mushroom. Black fruit and plums on the palate, with a lovely, long finish. I would give the 1988 a half point advantage, but they ended up with the same score.

No trip to Portugal would be complete without a beautiful Port!

Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Reserve Tawny ($48.99 at BC Liquor Stores)
Intoxicating notes of dried cherries, black licorice, dark raisins and violets on the nose. Dark chocolate, raisins, rum-soaked Christmas cake on the palate. Divine.

There was one more wine served just at the end of the evening, but I'm not going to score it as I only had a little bit and am not sure I would give it a fair number. It's another bottle that I took home, so I will give it a good review when I drink it, and it's almost 30 years old so I will drink it soon!

A fabulous night of food and wine, and it will be nice to have a third couple on board to host from time to time. They did a terrific job from start to finish, and if they were worried that they had to impress us so that we'd allow them to host again, well, they have nothing to worry about!!!

Up next: Last weekend we hosted BURGUNDY night, and I'll do a full report on that sometime this weekend.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Catching up on a bunch of great random stuff....finally......

One of the things that gets lost in the shuffle of our great wine trips, theme nights, and various other wine-drinking events, is the stuff we drink on Tuesday. And Wednesday. get the picture.

The random stuff we open with dinner on a regular night. We don't have wine every single night, but it's more likely than not we will crack open a bottle or two on any given night.

So, let's get to reviews of some of those bottles that I've never previously reviewed!

Church & State 2014 Signature Series Cabernet Franc ($34.90 direct from winery)
Aromas of blackberry and tea. Blackberry and blueberry flavors, with a slightly tart cherry on the mid-palate. Touches of cigar box and leather on the finish.

Signorello 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($143.99 from BC Liquor Stores)
Lovely aromas of cedar, mushroom, earth, black fruit, mint, cola and baking spice. Black fruit, blueberry, earth and mushroom on the palate. Finish is intense, long, and lovely. A treat and one that will likely improve for many more years. Given that the winery was totally destroyed in the Napa fires of 2017, I was pleased that this was so good and am looking forward to more from this winery once they have rebuilt.

In case you missed it when I posted the link originally, here is a fantastic article (not mine) about good Canadian boy Ray Signorello, Jr., and his vision for starting over after the tragedy.

Crown + Thieves 2016 Doc Gewurztraminer ($29.99 direct from The Hatch)

Lovely aromas of white flowers, lychee and stone fruit. Unctuous. Viscous. Thick and almost syrupy. Stone fruit flavors dominate with just a tiny hint of spice on the finish. Unlike most BC examples of this varietal. I'd be interested to see what this becomes in 7-8 years.

Hartford Family Winery 2013 Three Jacks Vineyard Chardonnay ($65.00 USD direct from winery)

Sourced from a small vineyard in the heart of the Green Valley in the Russian River Valley. Aromas of sweet hazelnut, caramel, baked apple and orange marmalade. Medium to full-bodied. Terrific fruit flavors on the palate, featuring tangerine, pear, pineapple, citrus and notes of butterscotch. These guys have no idea how to make a bad wine. This is, like, their 104th best Chardonnay and it's still spectacular.

Robert Mondavi 2014 Changement Pinot Noir ($55.00 USD direct from winery)
Vanilla cherry cola aromas dominate, followed by a hint of cigar box. Bright bing cherry flavors are all over the place, with a touch of spice showing up at the end. Medium finish. Improved a lot with food.

Painted Rock 2014 Merlot ($39.99 from BC Liquor Stores)
Cassis, blackberry, graphite and smoke on the nose. At 15.3% alcohol, the fruit gets slightly overwhelmed. Flavors of black fruit, blueberry and cherry. Lacks the finesse of the 2013 and needs more time to fully develop. If you have one, keep it in your cellar for a few more years. We decanted ours for almost 4 hours and it was still a little hot.

Tinhorn Creek 2016 Gewurztraminer ($16.99 from BC Liquor Stores)

Lychee and banana aromas jump from the glass, but get your nose right in there and white flowers and tropical fruit lurk in the background. The tropical fruit sticks around on the palate, where it is joined by a hint of banana, honey and candied citrus. Just delicious year after year. I'm enjoying this bottle as I'm typing up this update.

That's it for today, I will have another catch up entry soon, hopefully, as well as a report on our Portugal theme night from last month, and this weekend is my turn to cook and serve the wine again, as we go back to France to attack a different region, this time it's BURGUNDY! If you are fans of Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir, you aren't going to want to miss this one. Spoiler: it will feature the oldest Pinot Noir I have ever tasted.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

One of the best BC wineries isn't in the Okanagan at all!

I live 40 minutes from this winery, so it's a mystery why this was our first visit to Blackwood Lane. We were familiar with some of the wines, having enjoyed their Alliance and Reference in the past, but this was our first opportunity to taste through their entire portfolio.

They had advertised an "open house" on Twitter, featuring a free tasting of their flagship Reference, so we gathered up our friend who lives about 3 minutes away from the winery and headed down. Let's get to the wine!

Blackwood Lane 2014 Chardonnay ($29.99)
Aged 24 months in Burgundian oak barrels. Enticing aromas of pineapple, straw, walnuts and green apple. Buttery palate, just the way it should be, with flavors of hazelnut, butterscotch and a touch of apricot. Medium bodied.

Blackwood Lane 2016 Viognier ($24.99)
Oh my. Oodles of orchard fruits and honeysuckle, with particularly strong aromas of pear. The pears dominate the palate, almost masking the other flavors, but if you 'look' hard enough you'll get some tangerine and peach as well. Unquestionably one of the top 3-4 Viogniers in BC. Grapes from the Naramata Bench. Delicious.

Blackwood Lane 2014 Sea Buckthorn Riesling ($32.00)

Here is something unexpected: they take some Sea Buckthorn, one of the new "super fruits", and infuse it into the late harvest Riesling. Golden in colour, a touch of botrytis gives it an "icewine" smell, pineapple and raisins up front. Dried fruits, particularly fig and raising on the palate. Definitely unique. 

Blackwood Lane 2015 Angeline Rosé ($24.00)

Made from Pinot Noir, Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine (??), all grown in the Fraser Valley. Aromas of blackberry, raspberry and cranberry. Cranberry and notes of pink grapefruit come through on the palate. Bone dry.

Blackwood Lane 2012 Special Edition Vicuna Roja ($32.00)

Their "house red"...much pricier than most wineries "house" wine, and also much, much better. Complex aromas of blackberry, blueberry, toasty oak, vanilla, nutmeg and raisin. Dried blue and blackberries on the palate, and a hint of dark chocolate. Finishes long. A treat. 

Blackwood Lane 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($44.00)

My wife said this wine actually made her "angry". And not in a bad way; I think she was comparing it to so many lesser of this varietal that we get in BC. Aromas of black tea, blackberry and blueberry. Complex flavors, including Red Delicious apple, blackberry, cherry and black plum. Delicious and eminently drinkable right now. 

Blackwood Lane 2012 Merlot Reserve ($68.00)
Aromas of black tea, baking spice, red cherry and black fruit. Tannins and soft and supple. Flavors include Sultana raisins, Red Delicious apple (again??), cherry, cassis and vanilla. Only 14 cases made, and not many left, if you like BC Merlot, better hurry. 

Blackwood Lane 2009 Alliance ($69.00)
That's right, 2009 is their current vintage of this (and it's bigger cousin below). Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Eucalyptus, black cherry, blackberry, strawberry and violets on the nose. The palate features more of that Red Delicious apple, also red licorice, graphite, cassis and red cherry. Bottled just months ago, this is going to get even better once it settles. A special wine and a steal at this price. 

Blackwood Lane 2009 Reference ($150.00)

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Intoxicating aromas of blackberry, black cherry, black tea, graphite and black plum. Black licorice, blackberry, blueberry, black tea, oak and dark chocolate on the palate. Full bodied and complex with a very long and luscious finish.  Give it a long decant if you can't wait, or another 4-6 years of proper cellaring. What a delight. BC wine doesn't get a lot better than this!
Blackwood Lane 2012 The Rebel Syrah ($29.00)

Tasted last which probably didn't do it any favors, but still nice. Green pepper and violets on the nose. Pretty and feminine, light and fruity. Black cherry, vanilla and raspberry on the palate. 

There is SO much to like at the winery; they have a charger for electric vehicles (which are popping up more and more at wineries these days), they have a beautiful view when the weather is nice, our tasting room host, Kimberly, was friendly and took excellent care of us, even heating up some bread to cleanse our palates between tastes. They have four different options to taste, ranging from $8 to $40, which is not cheap for a BC tasting room, and even though I spent over $400, they still didn't waive all the tasting fees (they did provide a discount). They probably might want to re-think that. Anyway, that's a minor quibble with what was otherwise a fantastic experience. We will be back when the weather improves to enjoy the wines on the patio.

Next up: Still need to report on a fantastic evening of Portugal wines and food, and also have a ton of other stuff to report on. Stay tuned this weekend for more updates!