In my wine experience, I have what I like to call ‘wishlist wines’. These are wines I admire from afar; wines that are often impossible to find or impossible to afford. Some people say it is better not to meet your heroes, and so perhaps it is best to keep the dream wines a fantasy we can admire in books, magazines or on extravagant wine lists. Now the flipside to the coin is what I like to refer to as ‘workhorse wines’. While the term does not conjure up a very romantic image, it describes wines that I can take pleasure in on a regular basis. Wines that are approachable at a relatively young age, and have appeal both as a wine to enjoy by the glass as well as being suitably food-friendly. One such wine, that both my wife Rachel and I count amongst our favourites, is the Chateau St. Cosme Little James Basket Press Grenache.
Particularly appropriate as Grenache is one of my favourite red wine grapes for winter drinking, the Little James is a fantastic wine made by Chateau St. Cosme in Gigondas. It is produced in a solera style, which in this case means it is made up of 50% current vintage wine blended with a combination of the previous 10 vintages. This fractional blending gives the wine a very consistent, approachable style that offers wonderful complexity. On the nose you will find subtle earthy hints, dried red and black berry fruits, vanilla and sweet herbal notes. The palate is dry and medium full bodied with rich mouthfeel, balanced structure and layered black fruits, prune, cocoa powder and slightly nutty spice notes, with a very smooth lingering finish. Terrific to have on its own, or with a variety of firm cheeses, grilled meat, cassoulet or shepherd’s pie. Put your feet up and enjoy!
We featured the following fantastic sparkling wines during our Wine Club event in November:
*Cuvee Jean-Louis Blanc de Blancs (France)
*See Ya Later Ranch ‘SYL Brut’ (B.C.)
*8th Generation ‘Integrity’ Frizzante (B.C.)
*Adriano Adami ‘Dei Casel’ Prosecco (Italy)
*J Vineyards Blanc de Blancs (California)
*De Venoge Cordon Bleu Brut (France)
*Veuve Fourny Blanc de Blancs (France)
We recently attended the Italian Trade Commission ‘Wines of Italy’ tasting in Vancouver, and enjoyed it greatly. Italian wines, whether rustic or modern, tend to exude the sense of terroir very well. They maintain a strong sense of character that gives them a typically Italian style. Lots of acidity, grippy tannins, aromatics, colour etc, all of which are very appealing. There is a soft spot in my heart for Italian wines, specifically those of the north, and it was these wines that I was most focused on, in particular Barbaresco.
Barbaresco is often overshadowed by its cousin Barolo, but while they do share some similarities, Barbaresco offers a favourable alternative in terms of both style and price point. Produced in the Barbaresco region of Piemonte, from the Nebbiolo grape, the wines are robust reds with an elegant, slightly more feminine edge to them. They generally take less time to mature, and so become more pleasant and more approachable at a younger age while maintaining structure, and fruit integrity. Barbarescoes are delicious and exceptional for pairing with classic Italian fare, roasted game, braised meats, and firm cheeses. Here are a few I enjoyed:
Notedinanto Barbaresco – slightly dull red colour, richly aromatic with floral spice notes, black fruits, and leather. Dry, full bodied, with rich grippy tannins, juicy acidity, and flavours of anise, dried cherry, and baking spice, with a warm lingering finish.
Marchesi di Barolo Barbaresco – light ruddy ruby colour, moderately aromatic with hints of strawberry, sandalwood and sweet herbal notes. Dry, medium-full bodied with slightly rustic hints of tar, leather, red berries, and a touch of mocha in the finish.
La Spinona Barbaresco – ruddy ruby colour, moderate aromatics of leather, dried berries, and licorice. Dry, full bodied, balanced acidity and tannic structure, hints of sweet earth, baking spice, tea, candied berry and a long layered finish.
I recently had the great pleasure of enjoying a meal with some good friends. One of whom was a former team member of our Blackcomb Liquor Store & Fitzsimmons Pub family, returned to BC from Australia for a short vacation. As a wine enthusiast, any excuse will do to fetch something from the cellar and this being such an occasion I felt obliged to pull out some fun and interesting wine. Dining on rib-eye steaks, grilled to perfection, broccoli sautéed with pumpkin seeds, and baby potatoes, we enjoyed a very pleasant evening together. Here are two of the accompanying wines which provide an interesting comparison to each other both in terms of vintage and region. (Both of these wines were gently decanted approximately 5 hours prior to drinking.)
Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou Saint-Julien 1988
A wonderful example of how interesting aged Bordeauxcan be. The deep ruby colour showed some age as it was starting to fade to a ruddy, brick tone. The aromas were layered and also showing maturity with dried leafy floral notes, classic hints of cedar bark, graphite minerality, subtle hints of leather, dusty earth, some savoury spice notes, clay, and dried currant and raspberry fruit. The palate was dry with balanced acid and softening tannic structure, and medium to medium-full body. The delicate flavours of leathery cassis and slightly raisiny red berry carried through with hints of dried violets, green peppercorn, and licorice. Polished and balanced through the persistent finish. Quite elegant overall, still drinking well, excellent with the meat.
Kendall Jackson ‘Great Estates’ NapaValley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
A slight surprise here with a display of more elegance than I had suspected, for such a big vintage. Fairly dense purple colour with some ruddy ruby creeping in around the edges. The nose was moderately youthful with some developing character showing fruit dominant notes of cassis, sun dried cherry, toasty vanilla, subtle wood spice and a slightly nutty cocoa hint. The palate was dry, with balanced structure and just a slightly warmer alcohol feel than the Bordeaux. Medium full bodied with stewed red and black fruits, hints of cassis cordial, toast and slightly sweet nutty spice notes. Long finish with a warm lingering note. Overall well balanced, and maturing well with a core of focused fruit, paired well with meat, offers more fruity drinking pleasure on its own.
Have a delicious and happy Thanksgiving!
What’s in a name? Well sense of identity I suppose; and with wines and grapes it is as applicable as with any other thing. We, in North America, remain quite varietally focused with our wines. We tend to gravitate towards wines named for the grape or grapes that they are produced from, and perhaps that is part of the success of Pinot Grigio. I think people like to say the name, and it sounds exotic enough yet seems familiar enough that it isn’t intimidating. Plus let’s face it… it’s not chardonnay, and for many wine drinkers that fact alone is enough to attract attention.
So, whether you like to say Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, you are talking about the same grape. Different countries and different producers will result in differing styles, but ultimately it’s the same grape. It tends to be light and crisp, with delicate aromatics, and slightly leaner structure than its cousins Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, and has an affinity towards lighter fare and seafood, or simply makes a refreshing companion to more intensely flavoured dishes. A few that I am fond of are as follows:
Villa Chiopris Pinot Grigio – lean and mineral style with subtle citrus and straw notes, and crisp acidity.
Lagaria Pinot Grigio – slightly more modern version with a touch more fruit intensity on the nose and palate with citrus and floral notes and balanced acidity.
Zenato Pinot Grigio – classic lean and crisp, with a slightly richer mouth feel, balanced by white citrus, hints of minerality, and juicy acidity.
Fasoli Gino Pinot Grigio – an Italian beauty, with layered white fruit and citrus character, very slight herbaceous hints, balanced mineral and crisp acidity.