Sunday, October 13, 2019

Thanksgiving and Christmas wines for all kinds of celebratory meals!

Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner means family, good friends and great wines! 

Thanksgiving and Christmas wines for all kinds of celebratory meals!

This Thanksgiving weekend people will be getting together with family and friends to celebrate the fall season and give thanks to what we have with a big meal.  And do it all over again when Christmas comes just over two months later! 

And despite what some wine experts say, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are not really isn't that hard to pair wines with - especially if you a Wine Barbarian like me!

What's more - as Captain Barbossa put it in Pirates of the Caribbeans, they're more like guidelines than rules! 

So from the traditional turkey to turducken to tofurky fake bird to chicken to roast beef or prime rib to my favourite - rabbit in Dijon mustard cream sauce - the wine matches are really not too hard - and I'm hear to help.

Sparkling wines to start with appetizers

First - guests rule.  If someone wants a beer, a gin and tonic or another cocktail, make it so.  

But if it's wine, I suggest a sparkling wine to start.  

Fortunately sparking accommodates every price range - from budget bubbly to chic Champagne, we can do this.  Click on links to find where you can buy this wine at BC Liquor Stores - all prices before tax

Budget Bubbly - Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut is on sale now at just $14.99 [regularly $15.99] and is a nice, crisp clean Cava from Spain that is widely available. 

Got a big party?  Get one or more of the 1.5 liter Magnum for $27.99.  Drinking alone or 2?  You can also buy a 3-pack of baby-bottles for just $12.99 
 Slightly Upscale Sparkling - BC has some of my favourites sparkling wines at reasonable prices.  Try the Summerhill Cipes Brut at $27.99 or the Stellar's Jay Brut at $22.99.   

And California makes some great sparklers - Mumm Napa Cuvee is one of them at $27.99.  All widely available in BC.

Chic Champagne - Let's face it: nothing says celebration like real Champagne.  If only it weren't so damn expensive!  But if your Thanksgiving is one to show your family or friends you are truly grateful for their presence - or you just want to show off - make it Champagne.  

For me, the standard is Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial - at $69.99.  
A classic Champagne from Epernay, scored 91 points by the Wine Spectator, this has good acidity, toasty poached pear and black currant notes and oh, those beautiful tiny bubbles!  

If you are even richer than you think, vintage Champagne is another cut above the basic bottles.  Try the Veuve Cliquot Vintage Brut 2008 for another $30 at $99.99.  You will not be disappointed!  

AND - if you really, really like bubbly, keep serving it with your Thanksgiving meal, because it goes with just about everything! 

Alternatively, many people like a white wine with appetizers rather than bubbly - and nothing wrong with that because it also goes with your.....

Main Courses

Some wine writers say Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are thankless for sommeliers - the French word for those who match the wines to food - because they have so many "complex and contradictory" flavours.  And it's true that from appetizers to the range of foods at the main course - proteins from fowl to meat to meatless, starches from mashed potatoes to yams to parsnips, vegetables from asparagus to carrots to squash, gravy or mustard or cranberry sauce - it's a cacophony of tastes.

If you are serving a 9-course meal, that's no problem - you serve 9 different perfectly paired wines - because you are rich! 

But for most of us, a choice of 2 or more wines at dinner makes it a special occasion.  And many people don't drink either white or red wine [or both, poor souls]  

So that's what we're going to do here - one white and one red - but you pick the bottles for your budget.  And you can serve a white before dinner with appetizers if you don't want sparkling.  Or red for that matter - be a Barbarian!

If you are serving fowl - be it turkey, turducken, chicken, cornish game hen, duck, goose or even quail - you really do have a choice of white or red.  It's simply a question of what you like best and how it matches the dish and how it is prepared.

White wines to pair with main courses

Personally, I love Chardonnay.  And for a special meal, it is your best choices because it can be lean or creamy, big and bold or a background beauty.  Since Chardonnay is the world's favourite white wine, there are a massive number of choices for every budget. 

But a nice Sauvignon Blanc will also do the trick and if you like Riesling, it's also a good choice.

Somewhat Cheap and Definitely Cheerful Chardonnay

You are in good hands with BC wineries.  A never-wrong choice is Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2017.  At $21.99 [and on sale for $19.99 til Oct 26], this wine gives you classic creamy, citrus, apple and tropical fruit at an affordable price. 

Another great pick is Quail's Gate Chardonnay 2017 at $22.99, as is Cedar Creek Chardonnay at just $18.99. 

Want to go global?  Then a personal favourite is J Lohr Riverstone Arroyo Seco Chardonnay 2017 from Monterey, California at $23.99  Classic Cali Chard - lush, tropical, white peach and melon notes. 

Or try Wolf Blass Adelaide Hills Gold Label Chardonnay 2015 from Australia - a great wine from down under at $24.99 [on sale at $19.99 till Oct 26!] 

Still too much money?  Then you will be happy with Alamos Mendoza Chardonnay from Argentina at $14.99 - good varietal character on a budget.

Charming Mid-Range Chardonnay

It's a special meal, with great company - so spend a little more and enjoy at lot more! 

Back in BC there are some impressive Chardonnays from our Okanagan wineries.  Try the Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2017 at $49.99.  This is a big boy fighting it out with our California Chardonnay cousins - and holding it's own.  Bold and luscious with pear, lemon curd and oak and a long finish! 

Other BC Chardonnays are equally impressive - but harder to find.  The Quails Gate Stewart Family Reserve at $39.99 is also great but a bit rare right now other than at the winery or some private stores.

But it's hard to beat the French.  A personal go-to is the Domaine du Chalet Pouilly - Pouilly Fuisse 2017 at $37.99.  This is simply a delicious Chardonnay from Burgundy with crisp acidity, pear and kiwi fruit.  Mmmmm! 

Chardonnay for Kings & Queens 

Okay, we are entering the price range of Champagnes - but if you love Chardonnay then you know why it's worth trying the good stuff!

The Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay 2017 is everything you can ask for from a California wine, at $63.99. Spiced apples, almond croissant, honeyed peaches and baked pear are just some of the flavour notes critics have found.  You'll find it delightfully delicious!

For those like me who think Chardonnay is synonymous with Chablis, there are loads of choices in BC.  I recommend the Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Vaillon 2016 if you can find it - currently in five stores - at $57.99.  If not, any Christian Moreau Chablis available is worth buying.  Like all good Chablis, this has the mineral taste of the region, with flint, citrus and white flowers. Perfect with turkey, chicken or other fowl!

And if price is of little concern, it has to be a Meursault - the Pierre Brisset Meursault Charmes 2015 at $175.99 will be superb!  Says British wine guru Jancis Robinson: “Richly scented... This is utterly delicious! Gun flint and tarragon and spearmint and green-crystal fruit. Like tasting liquid green glass. So fresh! So focused. So direct. Stunning.”

If you have it, please invite me! 

Red wines to pair with main courses

For many of us, white wines are great - but they are simply not what we want for any main course except fish.  While this approach is simply wrong-headed, the only thing worse is not drinking whatever the hell you want!  Red it is!

Reasonable Reds 

Back to BC first - because we have lots of good picks.  Road 13 Honest John's Red 2018 is a blend of up to 6 grape varietals but dominated by Merlot - and always a great value wine.  Easy drinking and easy on the wallet at $19.99.

Another standby is Nk'Mip Cellars Merlot 2017 - at $21.99 you will be impressed by it's cherry fruit flavour and tamed tannins.  
On the lower budget end, Cono Sur Organic Pinot Noir from Chile at just $15.99 will do the job just fine. In fact, any Cono Sur wine is always my first recommendation if you are either low on cash or buying in bulk for a big party.  And this one goes well with fowl in particular. 

Pey La Tour
And of course, what would dinner be without Bordeaux?  Not as good, that's what!  So for a budget Bordeaux, try the Chateau Pey la Tour Reserve du Chateau 2016 at $26.99. 

No, it's not Mouton Rothschild - that would be $1,800 a bottle - but it is a lovely Bordeaux Superieur that's a great introductory Bordeaux with all the attributes I love in that region. And ranked 88-90 points by Robert Parker!

Robust Reds

Robust in both flavour and getting up there in price, these are the reds you serve when you want to impress the relatives!

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2015 at $47.99 comes from BC but tastes French - because it is part owned by the Gruaud Larose winery in Bordeaux!  Like Bordeaux, this is a red blend with mostly Merlot but Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Always fabulous at a special occasion.

From our friends in Oregon comes Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2015 at $49.99 - a fruit forward wine with lots of cherry and strawberry notes that will pair with whatever main course you serve from fowl to beef.  

And you can't go wrong with Italy - Sette Ponti Crognolo 2016 is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot that always satisfies at $39.99. Cherries and blueberries with a long finish to a fine meal!

And for a Bordeaux choice, try a personal top pick, the Chateau Herve Laroque 2010 at $49.99 - amazing taste and value for a 2010 Bordeaux from Fronsac.  It is full bodied, the BC Liquor Stores and the Chateau have aged it already for you and it will be amazing with whatever you serve! 

Reds For The Really Well Off

Let's be honest - if you can afford it, an expensive red wine with Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is astonishing.

And once in a while, it's worth blowing the budget for.  With that in mind.....

You can never go wrong with Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2016 - at $89.99 or any other vintage!  This is a big beautiful wine from the Southern Rhone Valley of France - and a personal icon.

For a Bordeaux pick it is a bit more challenging as the selection is less consistently available.  
But I'd be happy to find the Chateau Berliquet 2016 from St. Emilion at $85
on my dining room table anytime! Rated 93 points by Robert Parker, it's 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, with kirsch, black plums and black cherry compote scents.  Yum! 

Alternatively, many wine experts demand a Pinot Noir with turkey dinner - and I can't argue against that find choice either.  Pinot is generally a lighter weight than other varietals but so long as your turkey or other main is prepared without massive spicing or deep fried, it will do very nicely.

Burgundy is the French Pinot Noir choice and always a bit of a gamble in my experience.  You may wish to stick to the lower priced Oregon Pinot above. 

But if not, I would go with whatever Gevrey-Chambertin you can find locally - and ask your liquor store consultant for advice.  It's the one Burgundy that has been consistently good for me.  One choice is the Domaine Taupenot Merme Gevrey-Chambertin 2016 - not widely available but more than others, at $95.99, and rated 88-90 by Robert Parker.

But whatever you do, big budget or small, have a great meal! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

World Malbec Day is today - Wednesday April 17, 2019! Pop open a Malbec wine tonight!

Yes, it's World Malbec Day again - April 17 - that day of the year where we celebrate the delicious grape that has made its mark in Argentina and is a staple in France!  

So your patriotic international duty as a wine lover is to open a bottle of Malbec tonight with your dinner - whether it be a fabulous steak or a veggie hot dog - Malbec is very adaptable to food.  

The best thing about Malbec is that it it nearly impossible to go wrong buying a bottle at any price.  I often recommend a modest Malbec costing less than $13 if one is on a tight budget;  I also have no problem suggesting a $100 plus bottle of Malbec for a special occasion or cellar choice.

Luigi Bosca and Catena Malbecs
So don't be worried about getting the perfect bottle - just pick one and enjoy!

But....the Wine Barbarian does play favourites!  Here are a few choices I can heartily recommend.  And even better - a few are actually on sale at the BC Liquor Stores this week!

I'm a big fan of the Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2016 from Argentina's Mendoza region in Lujan de Cayo.  Lots of dark fruit going on - cherry, blackberry and plum - plus some espresso and dark chocolate! Mmmmm.  On sale for $2 off right now till April 27 at $21.99 and widely available - check here for a link to BC Liquor Store locations.

More favourites from Argentina - the Luigi Bosca Malbec 2016 and the Catena High Mountain Malbec 2016.  Both highly dependable choices vintage after vintage and both on sale - the Bosca for $4 off at $19.99 and the Catena for $2 off at $21.99 and both available all over BC- so no excuse for no Malbec tonight! 

Check here for Bosca and here for Catena at BC Liquor Store locations.

Domaine Bousquet Malbec
Another can't-miss modest Malbec is the Domaine Bousquet Malbec 2018 - on sale for just $14.99 right now!  Again, widely available - check here.    

But if the sky is the limit as well if you want to spend big bucks - I recommend the Catena Zapata Argentino Malbec 2015 - but only if you have $129 to spend on it! Beautiful wine tasted at the Vancouver International Wine Festival - and yes, it's available but in limited locations.

I have omitted my French connection - Cahors is the home of Malbec in France - and there are a few nice selections there too.

I must confess I haven't tried this one but it's a Malbec so it has to be good: Chateau Eugenie Tradition Malbec 2015 - available in some BC locations here

But however you go, go Malbec tonight! There are many more good choices if you can't find these ones.  And enjoy! 


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Wines you must try at the Vancouver International Wine Festival 2019 - picks from the Wine Barbarian!

Beaulieu Vineyard winemaker Trevor Durling and Bill Tieleman - Wine Barbarian
There are way, way too many wines at the fabulous 2019 Vancouver International Wine Festival to try them all - an astonishing 1,450 different wines from 16 countries in total! 

So you need a plan for the International Festival Tastings - here's my Wine Barbarian advice based on exhaustive research at this year!

California is the regional wine theme this year - so there are lots of great Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Lodi, Santa Cruz, Paso Robles and other wineries here. But the rest of the world is here too, so tour around.  

Here are a few of the many great choices - and remember that I have not visited every table by far!


Beaulieu Vineyard - one of Napa Valley's best and oldest wineries - must try their Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 at $65 - excellent value - and their Napa Valley Cab Sauv at $44!  Winemaker Trevor Durling is pouring and very knowledgable to talk to.  

Silver Oak Cellars - simply one of California's best red producers!  Don't miss their Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - also one of the most expensive bottles at the VIWF at $129!

Justin Vineyards - love their reds out of Paso Robles!  Isosceles red blend is superb at $117 but Justification is also great at $75.

Bill Tieleman - Wine Barbarian - and Gina Gallo - Gallo Signature Series
Gallo Signature Series - wonderful wines from all over California made by Gina Gallo, winemaker and yes, from the famous Gallo family!  Gina is great to talk to about her wines.  Love their Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir at $52, their Dry Creek Zinfandel at $40 and Napa Cab at $40.  Excellent values.

Duckhorn Wine Company - Known for their outstanding Merlots, Duckhorn is also making fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Try their 2015 Napa Cab at $89 and Calera Central Coast Pinot at $43 - and a lovely Chard at $48!  Talk to Brian Bostwick, export director about their wines.

Ridge Vineyards - Outstanding Zinfandels and red blends from Sonoma plus a killer Chardonnay out of Santa Cruz - what more can I say except try them all, especially Geyserville 2016! 
Bill Tieleman and Joel Peterson of Ravenswood
Ravenswood Winery - Pioneers of Zinfandel, this Sonoma County winery founded by Joel Peterson - who is pouring - makes outstanding bottles. Try their Teldeschi Vineyard Zin at $43 and Bellonis Vineyard Zin at $44. 

Okay - out of California but just across the state border to Oregon, where they make powerhouse Pinot Noirs!


Elk Cove Vineyards - I just love this table!  Three fabulous Pinot Noirs that blow me away and a Pinot Gris from the Williamette Valley in Oregon.  Don't miss any but must try the Mount Richmond Pinot Noir.  Talk to Shirley Brooks - VP sales - who knows lots about Oregon wines. 

Washington State

Aquilini Red Mountain - yes, the Vancouver Canucks owners have winery too - and a damn fine one!  Their Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 is superb. 

British Columbia

Just across the border in British Columbia is a wide selection of great wineries but here are a couple you must visit.

One Faith Vineyard owner Bill Lui and Wine Barbarian Bill Tieleman
One Faith Vineyards - Bill Lui had a mission - make the very best possible wine to international high standards - and with One Faith he has succeeded!  Simply one of BC and Canada's best wines in both 2013 and 2014 vintages that are being poured - and at $132 a bottle they are not fooling around with their Bordeaux blend!  Beautiful wine but for a more affordable bottle, taste the Certitude 2016 at $42. 

Bill Tieleman  and Ben Bryant of Mission Hill 
Mission Hill Family Estate - This winery just keeps getting better and better and bigger!  New winemaker Ben Bryant has stepped in as former winemaker Darryl Brooker steps up to be president - and what a great opportunity that is.  The Legacy Collection Compendium 2014 is a beautiful Bordeaux blend of 45% Cab Sauv/37% Merlot/16% Cab Franc and 2% Petit Verdot - and it will age nicely for a very long time.

Bench 1775 - Winemaker Valerie Tait is producing some great bottles out of the Naramata Bench and Osoyoos.  Try their Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah 2015 at $27.

Quails' Gate Winery - The Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2016 at $52 and Chardonnay 2016 at $40 are both awesome wines not to be missed.


Achaval-Ferrer - They produce fantastic Malbecs and blends from Mendoza - try the two single-vineyard Malbecs - Finca Mirador 2014 at $125 and Finca Bella Vista 2014 at $108 - wow! 


Majella Wines - Owner Brian Lynn is a charming and regular visitor here in Vancouver - and so is his fabulous Sparkling Shiraz 2016!  Unique, refreshing and delicious - you may never have tried it and you owe it to yourself to do so!  Other lovely reds too.

Brian Lynn of Majella Wines and Bill Tieleman - Wine Barbarian
New Zealand

Jim Robertson of Stoneleigh and Bill Tieleman - Wine Barbarian
Stoneleigh - Always great wines at each price point, I particularly like the Latitude Pinot Noir 2017 - beautiful bouquet and lots of fruit for just $22!  Talk to my buddy Jim Robertson - another regular Vancouver visitor and so knowledgable about New Zealand wines.


Borie-Manoux - If you love Bordeaux like I do, you can't miss these fine wines.  Four excellent bottles but I really enjoyed tasting the 2003 Chateau Herve Laroque alongside it's 2010 vintage brother - so nice to see what seven years of additional aging brings to the table! Both fantastic wines from Fronsac - and reasonably priced at $44 and $50 respectively.  Also try the 2009 Chateau Beau-Site at $56 - a stunning St. Estephe.

Ballande & Meneret - More Bordeaux? Bring it on!  Four more lovely bottles - my favourite was the 2009 Chateau Larrivaux from Haut-Medoc at just $44 - a bargain for 10-year-old wine!

Ulysse Cazabonne - Yes, still more Bordeaux!  Four more fine bottles all from 2015 but with different blends of Merlot and Cabernet - try the Chateau de Croix Saint Vincent 2015 at $58 -70% Merlot/30% Cab.


Marchesi di Barolo - Nebbiolo grapes are great!  Three Barolos and a Barbaresco - all superb.  Try the Cannubi and Sarmassa 2014 Barolos for a cool comparison - both priced at $95 and both delicious!

Tenuta Argentiera - Not Bordeaux but Tuscany making Bordeaux blends - and stunning ones!  Great value on the lower priced red and rose but the Bolgheri Superiore 2016 is amazing - at $83.  


Stina - Amazingly, one of four Croatian wineries at this year's festival - and they are all eye-openers for many wine drinkers who don't know that country is producing excellent wines.  Try the flagship 2016 Posip red at $47 - beautiful! 

Okay - I know I missed dozens of wonderful wineries as well as the entire countries of Germany, Japan and Uruguay - all making great wines too and pouring here - but time is running out - have a great Festival and let me know what you think if you see me there or post here or on Twitter - @BillTieleman or Facebook!