Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What wines we're drinking this week

Here are a few excellent wines to imbibe from your local BC Liquor Store that will hopefully make up for the recent lack of communications at this wine blog.

Cono Sur is the Chilean winery that is a "connoisseur" for low-end wines appealing to most consumers.

But while they do a great job at value wines in the under $15 Canadian bracket, Cono Sur also makes some excellent mid-range wines.

One of there best efforts is on sale at the BC LDB - Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2007 - reduced from $24.99 to $19.99 at the moment of writing.

Rated 88 points by the Wine Spectator magazine, this is a full-blooded pinot, not some wimpy lightweight. It has lots of blackberry, cherry and raspberry fruit with a good finish.

There won't be many left soon - so snap some up!

My second choice isn't on sale but is a great deal anyway - the 2004 Pourpre de Grezette - a malbec from Cahors for $15.99.

We are more accustomed to great malbecs from Argentina but this one from France is superb. I was not aware of La Grezette but it turns out to have been purchased by Alain-Dominique Perrin in the 1980s. I believe this is the first time a wine from this winery has been sold in BC.

Tony Gismondi of the Vancouver Sun and other places, including his excellent website, gives it an 86 point score - I'd put it a little higher than that - great extract and concentrated flavour - wow!

I suggest finding some now, before it disappears.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What wines we're drinking this week

Run do not walk to find this excellent Sabor Real tempranillo from Bodegas Campinas - rated at 90 points by wine guru Robert Parker - and available for only $16.99 at BC Liquor stores.

This is a great big juicy wine - not like some softer tempranillos that are delicious but would get beat up by a pork chop, let alone a porterhouse steak.

This smoky, blackberry-rich wine is great with food or on its own.

Coming from Zamora in the relatively unknown Toro region, this is one of the best value wines I've tasted in ages.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bye-Bye Burgundy - no more disappointing bottles - I'll buy-buy New World pinot noirs instead!

Burgundy bottle fails again - what is wrong with this picture?

It happened again!

I opened a bottle of Burgundy nicely cellared for a few years, popped the cork and got ready for a great wine with a great meal - but I was only half right.

Has this happened to you?

The Burgundy - or Bourgogne - was completely lacking in bouquet, character or anything interesting at all.

But it was expensive! I really don't expect to pay $53 for a wine that fails to deliver the goods.

This one was the 2003 Domaine Doudet-Naudin Savigny Les Beaune Les Guettes 1er Cru. I tasted it at the Vancouver International Playhouse Wine Festival in 2006 and was so impressed a bought a bottle that night.

Now granted, I had been drinking - but given how many I taste in an evening, this one stood out enough that I purchased it.

Unfortunately, this bad Burgogne experience has been repeated several times in past years.

But no more. I am going to resist the siren call of Burgundy and stick to New World pinot noirs - which have not failed me yet.

I highly recommend pinot noir from the Santa Barbara region of California - especially Au Bon Climat, Foxen, Byron, Foley and others - and from New Zealand, especially from the Central Otago region.

I also very much enjoy several BC pinot noirs, including Blue Mountain, Cedar Creek, Quail's Gate and Nk 'Mip Cellars.

BC Liquor Stores and private stores have a good selection - and best of all - it's a lot cheaper than undependable Burgogne!

But if you've had a good pinor noir experience from Burgundy, please let me know - post your good news here - or bad news if you've had the same problems I have.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

A visit to Chateauneuf-du-Pape in southern France

The great wines and food of Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Bill Tieleman with Laurence Feraud of Domaine du Pegau & my wife Shirley Ross

This August we were fortunate enough to visit Chateauneuf-du-Pape in southern France - home of great wines and fabulous food - after visiting family in Amsterdam and before travelling to Paris.

While there we were very pleased to visit some of the region's excellent wineries - including Domaine du Pegau and Chateau Mont Redon.

At Domaine du Pegau it was a great pleasure to meet Laurence Feraud, one of the world's best winemakers and yet truly a down to earth person who welcomes everyone equally to her winery.

Perhaps unlike most wineries, Domaine du Pegau exports 90% of its wines to 30 countries, including Canada. We sampled four great reds:

2005 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Laurence - a supersmooth, fine and layered wine that has a finish which goes on and on. Not rated by the Wine Spectator but the regular 2005 bottling scored 94 points and this is even better!

2006 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee - a great wine which we also had later in the trip with dinner. The Wine Spectator rates it at 93 points, with ripe fig, currant, cocoa and chestnut notes - who can argue?

2007 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee - an awesome wine still in its infancy but much bigger than the 2006 - a true powerhouse that will last for years.

2007 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee da Capo - we had an absolutely fabulous barrel tasting sample! A huge wine that is only made in exceptional years. The last vintage in 2003 was rated at an amazing 99 points by the Wine Spectator and had a release price of $270 US. This vintage feels like it will match that rating easily - Wow!

"It will keep for 50 years," Laurence told us in English. "That was my idea after tasting great wines from the 1940s."

Interestingly, Domaine du Pegau does not use any new oak barrels in making its wines. "New oak would be too powerful for grenache," Laurence said. grenache makes up about 80% of the grapes in the Reservee, with smaller amounts of the other traditional Chateauneuf-du-Pape grapes, including mourvedre, syrah, cinsault and counoise.

And she had some good advice for other winemakers.

"The most important thing is to keep on style. I fee sorry for the young winemakers - they change too much and then they lose their clientele," Laurence said.

You can find Domaine du Pegau's fine wines in several wine stores in Vancouver, BC, including Kitsilano Wine Cellar on 4th Avenue and Broadway Wines on Broadway. Or contact Liquid Art Fine Wines, the winery's Canadian distributor, in Vancouver.

[If you wish to visit the winery it is essential to email in advance to set up an appointment.]

After our morning visit we had lunch in Chateauneuf-du-Pape at La Mere Germaine, a restaurant recommended highly by the Wine Spectator magazine that did not disappoint.

The Spectator noted that the vignerons of the region eat there and sure enough, when we visited the first time the Vieux Telegraphe staff were there also, our server told us.

I had the plat du jour - an appetizer and entre for 17 euros. My choice was a fabulous cold avocado soup with crawfish and red pepper to start, followed by a pork roast croute - covered in a pastry crust, with mushrooms and pine nuts in a cream sauce. Absolutely delicious also.

Given that it was about 33 degrees C outside I opted for a glass of Vieux Telegraphe white Chateauneuf-du-Pape at just 8 euros - before I knew the winemakers were in the restaurant. It's a stunning wine - huge and tropical. The 2007 was rated 89 points and this easily far exceeds that score.

On a second visit for lunch at La Mere Germaine I enjoyed a salad avec chevre chaud - goat cheese in crepe pockets quickly deep fried - excellent!

That was followed by a gigotin de canard with white beans, tomatoes, black olives and baby potatoes, accompanied by a glass of 2007 de Nalys white Chateauneuf-du-Pape for 8 euros - a fruity, minerally wine that went well with the duck. Wine tasting must make us hungrier than usual, as we also shared a great creme brulee for dessert.

That day we travelled to Chateau Mont-Redon, another well -known Chateauneuf-du-Pape winery just outside of the old town, and were fortunate to taste several vintages of their red.

1999 Chateau Mont-Redon - a very good wine, quite soft and fully mature. No Spectator rating.

2001 Chateau Mont-Redon - killer wine! It was very powerful yet fruity and accessible - we took a bottle home for dinner, where we cooked duck breast with pepper, green beans and pasta with provencal sauce - great match! The Spectator gave it 89 points but I rate it easily 92.

2003 Chateau Mont-Redon - not quite as impressive as the first two but still a fine wine. Spectator score was 87.

Mont-Redon is represented in Vancouver by wine agent Christopher Stewart and can be found in government and private liquor stores.

Mont-Redon exports 50% of its wines, unlinke Domaine du Pegau's 90%, and sells the other half in France. The "cepage" is 65% grenache, 15% syrah, 10% cinsault, 5% mourvedre and 5% counoise along with other more rare CNP varietals like muscardin and vaccarese. It produces 30,000 cases of red and a total of 800,000 bottles a year.

The vineyards of Mont-Redon are the most rocky and inhospitable-looking I've ever seen! As you can see in the photo at the top, huge "galets roules" - round rocks - cover the ground where the vines stick through.

This gives CNP the terroir that produces great wines but the stones also retain the intense summer heat, hastening grape ripening.

Despite the sweltering weather, our gracious host asked if we'd like to try some of their Vieux Marc - a distilled liquor made with grapes that is somewhat similar to armagnac but more fiery in my view. And in the air conditioned cool cellar, who could say no?

It was delicious - lots of character and intensity - perfect on a wintry Canadian evening.

Through the course of our trip we also tried many other Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines - either through the wineries tasting rooms, the excellent Vinadea - a wine store in the town which features a wide selection of the regional wines, or simply by purchasing them. Here are a few high points of our tastings:

2007 Domaine des Relagnes - "La Clef de St. Thomas" - every 2007 red we tasted was massive - this is no exception. The 2006 was rated 91 by the Spectator - this will score higher.

2007 Domaine de Beaurenard - very concentrated "fruit des bois" - intense and likely long-lived. The Spectator scores it 91 points, noting plum, fig and blackberry fruit. Lovely.

2007 La Bastide Secret Dominique - "Secrets de Pignan" - another killer CNP - 90% grenache and 10% mourvedre, this old vines wine is another fig/plum bomb! The regular, cheaper 2007 bottle from the winery scored 92 points - this will rank even higher.

Overall it was a fantastic trip. We stayed in a lovely small cottage with a pool in Roquemaure - just a few kilometres across the Rhone from Chateauneuf-du-Pape and about 20 kilometres outside Avignon, the historic city that used to be home to Catholic popes in the 14th and 15th centuries before the papacy returned to the Vatican in Rome.

And we did more than just drink and eat - we visited the amazing Pont du Gard ancient Roman aquaduct, the traditional town of Uzes and the "hottest city in France" - Orange, which is home to best preserved Roman theatre in the world - the astonishing Theatre Antique.

We can highly recommend a visit to anyone interested in great wine and food and a wealth of historic and cultural sites, as well as consistently hot weather.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What wines we're drinking this week

Back trying to be more rigorous about posting my top wine picks instead of just savoring them and doing nothing!

An old friend of a wine I hadn't had in a little while was a welcome reminder of how good a bottle under $20 can really be.

Peter Lehmann makes some fabulous wines and is always good value for money but the 2005 Clancy's Barossa Red is truly an awesome bottle for $17.99!

A blend of 35% shiraz, 34% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot and 5% cabernet franc, this wine has consistently scored 89 points and more at the Wine Spectator in previous vintages - including four Top 100 Wines of the Year awards - and this should be no exception.

Loads of blackberry, plum, dark fruit and chocolate, with nicely balanced tannins makes for an imminently delicious wine!

* * * * *

The heat of the summer is one of the best reasons to drink cold wine - and when you get tired of the same old chardonnays and pale whites, go for the pink!

Another excellent rose available in BC is Domaine Houchart's Provence Rose, retailing for $17.

A beautiful salmon pink wine, it tastes of strawberries with some citrus nose as well.

Refreshing and it goes well with almost any food.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What wines we're drinking this week

Wines we enjoyed this week - finally an update after a long delay - sorry about that!

We loved a great 2006
Cedar Creek Estate Select Chardonnay - for just under $20 - great classic California chardonnay tastes but from BC.

Lots of tropical fruit, butterscotch and buttery oak - you gotta like it and at a lower price than anything similar from south of the border.

* * * * *

If you haven't tried Old River Road - a great California organic winery - their
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is killer. With a 76% cab sauv and 24% cab franc blend, this one has lots of dark fruit and the French oak aging to make it last.

It may be hard to find - it was a special listing for the Playhouse International Wine Festival, but try private stores or check the
winery website.

* * * * *

If you have a bit of spare change, you can't go wrong with
Rocca delle Macie's 2003 Toscana Roccato - a super Super Tuscan wine.

Wine Spectator gives it a 90 point rating and if anything, I'd give it 92-93 points. A huge, layered wine with lots of blackberry, plum and chewy fruit, this wine is made for Italian food.

And that's exactly what we did - enjoyed it immensely at the marvelous La Buca restaurant in Kitsilano this week - watch for a review here of that fine food establishment soon.

* * * * *

Rose anyone? If you are thinking Mateus and the 1970s, I say get over it!

Today's excellent roses are dry, dry, dry and top quality wines.

This week I tried one of my favourites again - the
Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine from the Tavel region of the Cotes du Rhone. It's not cheap - $24 in BC - but it's worth every penny.

Bone dry, beautiful strawberry colour and fabulous strawberry and raspberry flavours as well as a touch of spice. Will pair nicely with just about anything you want - from grilled meat to appetizers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Top winery picks for Playhouse Wine Festival Saturday Night

The Wine Barbarian outside Saturday night's wine festival

With over 183 different wineries from 15 unique countries providing over 1600 wines it is literally impossible to advise anyone attending tonight's Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival tasting which wines to try.

But I can give you a few recommendations based on my three visits to the tasting room so far!

I've had great wines from all over but here's a few wineries or tables with one or more wineries represented that you should not miss:

Long Shadows - From Walla, Walla Washington - big beautiful reds and a killer riesling - I bought some and don't even like rielsling that much!

Inland Trading - always some of the best Australian shiraz available - including from the fabulous Rolf Binder.

Majella Wines - Some of Coonawarra's nicest wines - cab, shiraz and sparkling.

Deutz - Champagne, including a vintage 1998 that will make you consider the second mortgage needed to buy a case - at $175 a bottle, one of the Festival's most expensive.

Catena - Viva Malbec! But also a great reserve cabernet sauvignon.

Magnanimus Wine Group - All organic wines from Mendocino, California - try especially the Old River Road cabernet.

Byron - If you saw Sideways - the movie - you know that Santa Barbara makes delicious pinot noir and chardonnay - great stuff here.

Working Horse Winery - Wines from this new BC organic winery from veteran Tilman Hainle can only be tried at Puddifoot's display and tasting from the fantastic Riedel glasses - the only glasses I use at home. Tilman was BC's first organic winemaker and his new pinot noir ice wine is unbelievable - and unbelievably rare!

Osoyoos Larose - This BC-French joint venture in the Okanagan is producing amazing Bordeaux-blend wines - not surprising when the French half is Gruaud Larose!

Olivier Leflaive Wines - Best chardonnay in the house -the $115 Puligny-Montrachet premier cru Champ Gain - formidable! Magnifique!

But there's so much more - I hope you have a chance to taste some of it, as the Festival is of course, sold out!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bill Tieleman speaks at Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival trade show on organic wines

Facilitator Glenn Sigurdson & host Tony Gismondi
at Eco-Friendly Wine event

I was very pleased to be asked to speak at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival's trade show panel titled: "Eco-friendly Wine: Over-hyped, Over-priced? A Symposium on Green Wine Marketing" on Wednesday.

An international panel of experts discussed organic certification, biodynamic wine growing, new trends in ecologically better packaging and much more.

Tony Gismondi, the Vancouver Sun wine columnist and editor of Wine Access, hosted the event.

Among those on the panel were: Jean-Charles Boisset, President, Boisset Family Estate, France; Jose Asensio, Export Director, Familia Zuccardi Winery of Argentina; Tilman Hainle, Owner and Winemaker, Working Horse Winery, BC; Robert Hill Smith, Owner, Yalumba Winery - Australia; Barbara Philip, Master of Wine - Vancouver; Owsley Brown III, President, Magnanimus Wine Group - California and Anthony Nicalo of Farmstead Wines - a BC-based importer.

Watch for a full write up here soon.

But in the meantime, Vancouver writer Peter Mitham has a good account of the panel discussion for the California-based Wines and Vines magazine's website, including quoting yours truly. Wines and Vines is a trade publication for the wine and grape industry.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fabulous Barnett Vineyards wine tasting

Bill Tieleman and David Tate, winemaker - Barnett Vineyards

I was fortunate to attend a private wine tasting of fabulous white and red wines from Barnett Vineyards in Napa Valley's Spring Mount District and to meet winemaker David Tate, who is originally from BC.

The March 1 tasting showcased some of Barnett's premium red wines, including the exclusive 2006 Rattlesnake Hill cabernet sauvignon, which retails for US $120 and the 2006 Cyrus Ryan cabernet sauvignon, which sells for $90 US.

The Rattlesnake Hill is a beautiful, intense and tightly-wound wine from a small rocky knoll on Spring Mountain. It shows deep cassis, violet and chocolate backed by blackberry fruit.

The Cyrus Ryan is a sharp contrast, as it comes from the Napa Valley floor - not Spring Mountain - near the Silverado Trail. Much more open now than the Rattlesnake Hill, it shows black cherry, currant and raspberry on the nose.

Both beautiful wines and both will easily age for 10 years without a doubt.

David - who calls Nanaimo "home" - has a remarkable winemaking pedigree, especially for a young guy. He's was assistant winemaker at the legendary Ridge Vineyards for five years until joining Barnett in 2007.

Before that he worked in Australia with J&J Hahn, a premium winemaker in the Barossa Valley, and St. Hallett's. David also spent time in Provence, France at Domaine Richeaume.

While the premium wines show what can be done with great grapes in the hands of a talented winemaker, the other wines in the lineup are also very impressive.

The flagship Barnett wine, the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District, has garnered a 91 point rating from the Wine Spectator and is a great wine.

It retails for Cdn $88 and is available in BC Liquor Stores and some private outlets.Barnett wines can also be special ordered through agents New World Wines, who helped bring David and his wines to Vancouver. Thanks to New World Wines' Peter and Elizabeth Crews, who attended the event.

Other wines tasted included a powerful 2007 Merlot from Spring Mountain District that showed intense black cherry and pomegranate fruit. It retails for $70.

An unusual approach to the 2007 Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley pays off. The wine was partly aged "sur lees" and the results are good - a black raspberry, cherry and violet nose. It retails for $60. Last year's vintage earned a 91 point rating from the Wine Spectator.

Barnett also produces a very big white, the 2007 Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay from Sonoma-Carneros. It is a classic California chard with lots of fruit and honeysuckle, jasmine, spice and peach notes. It retails for Cdn $50 and was rated 90 points by the Wine Spectator.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

BC Liquor Board puts lots of good wine on sale in February!

Sorry for the sporadic nature of this blog - but I want everyone to know there are some great deals on wine at the BC Liquor Board in early February.

Take a look at your local store - lots of wine discounted by about 1/3 price - i.e. $15 wine for $10, $30 wine for $20.

It always pays to try and check out online for review but I've found some great buys.

Unfortunately it disappears quickly - restaurant owners and collectors are scooping stuff up but look for more obscure stores and you can still find excellent deals.