Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Fantastic food in Seville, Spain! Abantal - Michelin 1 Star restaurant - delivers the goods!

Abantal - Course 5: Tuna tartar with aubergine [eggplant] black olive crumble and cucumber mayonnaise - a favourite!
Fantastic food in Seville Spain! That's what we enjoyed at Abantal, a 1-star Michelin restaurant we visited in September.
My wife Shirley Ross and I went all-in for the Grand Chef's Daily Tasting Menu - 13 courses for 90 Euros each.
Abantal Chef and co-owner Julio Fernández Quintero takes great pride in being recognized as Best Andulusian Chef in 2005 and winning a Michelin Star in 2008, continuing to hold that honour ever since.  Abantal is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the city - and we were fortunate to get a reservation on fairly short notice.
Abantal is in an unassuming building and nondescript part of Seville just outside the main tourist section of the old town. But what's inside is anything but ordinary! 
Dinner started with 4 amuse bouches: dry onion with black garlic sauce; cookies with leeks and potato jelly; mushroom meringues and sea anemone! All delicious.
Course 1: Clam with cauliflower emulsion and microseaweed;

Course 2: Tomato sponge, codfish drop, black garlic aioli, pepper and potato crisp;

Course 3: Oyster with citrus foam sweet potato puree, fried rice grains and a spiced infusion;

Course 4: Spinach puree with anise, broccoli and white asparagus & artichoke heart, dried peas;
Course 5: Tuna tartar with aubergine [eggplant] black olive crumble and cucumber mayonnaise - a favourite - see above 

Course 6: Red Prawn - very large - steamed with wild rice [from Spain] foam and prawn oil aioli [yes!];
Course 7: Meagre - a fish like sea bass - with tomato, pepper jelly and basil jelly - garlic-aioli like but lighter!;

Course 8: Lamb sweetbreads with chickpea puree and beet puree; [sorry - no photo]

Course 9: Suckling pig, roasted endive slice, black garlic aioli and tomato puree;

Course 10: Foie Gras cream, coffee gelee, sweet and sour quince - another favourite - super light and sweet!;

Course 11: Fennel frappe, apple sorbet and coriander sponge cake with lemon;
Course 12: Passion fruit cream, frappe mint and chocolate;
Course 13: Orange wine zabaglione, anise cookie and cinnamon with orange blossom jelly and orange!
We enjoyed all this with a beautiful Spanish red wine from Ribera del Duero - Pagos de Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2012, rated 93 points by Robert Parker, for 53 Euros. It was dense and rich, with concentrated red cherry flavours - and as lovely as you would expect from over 80 year-old-wines!
I also enjoyed a Malaga sweet dessert wine - Molino Real from Telmo Rodriguez. 
I should add that every serving plate was different - shapes, textures, colours - all fascinating. And service was impeccable, as one would expect.
This was an astonishingly good meal at any price but for 90 Euros - $135 Cdn - it was truly remarkable! I highly recommend a visit - and an earlier reservation than we made - if you are visiting Seville.
This was the first time either of us had been to a Michelin-starred restaurant - most are in Europe - and we hope to be so lucky as to do so again. One of our most memorable meals ever - thank you to Chef Fernández!
Abantal website at: http://www.abantalrestaurante.es/about-us/trajectory

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Happy International Malbec Day! April 17 we celebrate Malbec wine!

Happy International Malbec Day!  

On April 17 we celebrate Malbec wine around the world!

April is a great month to drink Malbec - rainy, windy or even sunny but cool - that's the perfect weather for a beautiful, heart-warming glass of Malbec.

It can come from Argentina - where it most famous - or France - where it originated, primarily in the Cahors region as well as in Bordeaux blends - or British Columbia and other parts of the globe.

Malbec is great with steaks and grilled meat - I did mention Argentina - but it is an adaptable wine and pairs perfectly with vegetarian meals too.

Today in BC there are about 80 Malbec or Malbec blended wines in the BC government liquor stores, plus more in private outlets.

The Wine Barbarian recommends these Malbecs but this is a rare grape where you will hardly ever go wrong on a bottle.  And Malbec's range from very cheap to very expensive, so there is something for every budget.

Trivento - Malbec Lujan de Cuyo Golden Reserve 2015 - Argentina

A beautiful, deep wine that gives you chewy cherry and spices - smooth and superb.

The Wine Spectator rates it 89 points and says: "This shows good cut to the dried cherry and green olive flavors, matched to lively acidity. Slate and spice details emerge on the crisp finish." 

A great buy at $21.99 and widely available across BC at government liquor stores - $2 off till April 28.

Vina Cobos - Felino Malbec 2016 - Argentina 

Vina Cobos is always a good bet for Malbec - or Chardonnay - as it is part of the Paul Hobbs empire and Hobbs is known for quality at all price ranges.  The Wine Spectator scores this at 87 points and previous vintages higher, and offers this description:

"Offers lots of tealike notes to the red plum, dried berry and ripe currant flavors, supported by crisp tannins. Bittersweet chocolate details show on the finish." 

There are about 1,000 bottles available around the province at government liquor stores and even better - it's on sale for $21.99 - a $2 discount till April 28.

Bench 1775 - Cabernet Franc-Malbec 2015 - Naramata BC

Bench 1775 produces some very nice wines and this Malbec blend is definitely one of them!  Not widely available but in 20 stores around BC at $22.99.

Lots of cherry and blackberry flavours here.

But whatever your taste - be sure to crack open a Malbec today and join the wine world in celebrating this great grape! 


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Kiss - Don't Spit! Wine tasting advice and must visit wineries at the Vancouver International Wine Festival!!!

Kiss - Don't Spit - or you won't know what you're missing! 

NO! Kiss - don't spit! 
That's my contrarian advice to those attending the Vancouver International Wine Festival Saturday afternoon and evening for the International Festival Tastings.

And below are some of my "Must Visit" winery tables based on extensive research the past few days!

But first - most wine experts will tell novices to "spit" the wine after nosing the bouquet in the glass and sipping it into your mouth and swirling it around - I strongly disagree.

After all, there's a reason I'm called The Wine Barbarian! 

The experts's reasoning is sound in a way - you can taste far more wines without getting intoxicated by the alcohol content if it doesn't go down your throat and into your stomach.  And those in the wine trade often have to taste dozen and dozens if not hundreds of wines in a day - it's not possible to do that and not have your liver end up like foie gras within weeks!

But you - the wine consumer - are not an expert nor are you tasting hundreds of glasses.

First - you simply cannot fully experience a wine without swallowing it, feeling the wonderful elixir float down your throat, discovering the length of the finish - you can literally count the seconds when you can still taste it, and know the satisfaction of having tasted one of the best wines in the world!

Spitting?  Sorry but you just don't get that sensation.

And you are at North America's largest consumer wine festival, with literally dozens of wines priced at $100 or more per bottle - why the hell would you spit that out?!!!

Plus,  you can simply "kiss" a lot of wines without swallowing or spitting!

By kissing I mean you nose the wine in the glass, bring it to your lips and then - unless it's awesomely tasty and probably quite expensive, you simply pour the wine into the conveniently located spit bucket on the table. 

Polite, discreet, saving your sobriety for none but the best and when you do sip and swallow it will be worth it!  

Lastly, proper spitting is hard - don't try to learn it in front of 1,600 people including sommeliers, winemakers, family and friends!  

Okay - sermon over - what to drink at the Vancouver International Wine Festival:

With about 750 wines to potentially taste at the International Festival Tastings, you need a strategy and discipline!

So here's my suggestion - go to these excellent tables first and try all their wines.  You can't possibly go wrong and then everything else you taste will be gravy - err groovy.


Bill Tieleman with Cristiano van Zeller of Quinta Vale D. Maria
This years Wine Festival has a regional focus on Portugal and Spain - and I couldn't be happier with that!  

Portugal makes not only great Port of course but fantastic fresh, citrusy white wines that have blown me away and fabulous reds that are not only some of the best in the world but incredibly priced by comparison to say, Bordeaux.

I was honoured to have lunch and also attend a 2015 Vintage Port tasting with this famous gentleman - Cristiano van Zeller of Quinta Vale D. Maria - one of Portugal's great wineries!  Cristiano is hilarious, outspoken and one hell of a winemaker!

Don't miss his wines, especially the VVV Valleys Douro Branco - a beautiful white retailing for $39 - and the Douro Tinto 2014 - a big, bold red that retains for $56.  At the Trade Tasting I was able to sample his CV - Curriculum Vitae 2015 that is a marvellous wine I've enjoyed in previous vintages - superb wine.  It retails for about $120 if you can find it - perhaps at a private store sometime.

Jorge Ramos and Bill Tieleman
Be sure to also check out the Fonseca and Ramos Pinto tables, where you will find Jorge Ramos, Export Director and part of the fabled Ramos family.  Be sure to try the Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 2015 - which I had a chance to taste - it's super-early to drink a Port now but you can just instantly tell that this will be fantastic for years to come.  It retails for $74.  And you don't want to miss Ramos Pinto 20 Year Old Tawny Port - a real beauty retailing for $64.
But everything from Portugal is well worth a try and just use these as starting points to discover the country's great wines.


Spanish wine was my first true love when I discovered that fermented grapes beat the hell out of hops - no offence to beer lovers - and Torres was the winery that led me to become a collector as well as a drinker.
Bill Tieleman and Miguel Torres Maczassak
So it was a real pleasure to meet Miguel Torres Maczassek - a 5th generation member of this famous winemaking family!  I've also been fortunate enough to visit Torres winery in Penedes in Spain in the past. 

Miguel led an excellent Wine Festival seminar walking us through Torres' wine from across Spain, including their flagship red - Mas La Plana - a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown near Penedes that stunned the French and the world in 1979 by being blind tasted and winning top honours against the best of Bordeaux.  

Mas La Plana 2012 in the middle of two other great Torres wines
It's always a beautiful wine - and the 2012 is a powerful, tannic and layered with dark fruit - and you can taste it and meet Miguel at the Torres table. 
I also love the Celeste 2013 from Ribera del Duero that is a fabulous value at just $26.

With Spain being a focus region I could go on for days about the other great wines from there at the festival but let me just pick a few favourites:  Grupo Faustino - with a stunning Gran Reserva 1994 - that's no typo - 1994 - that is just marvellous at an amazingly reasonable $64; their Gran Reserva 2005 at $42 is also great; Muriel Wines from Rioja - and its great Gran Reserva 2005 at $38;  Rioja Vega has a wonderful Gran Reserva 2011 at just $40 - another stunning wine; Bodegas Valdemar is one of my mainstays - and they have a Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva 2004 at $90 for a magnum and a Rioja Reserva 2009 at $27 that you will love.  But try other Spanish wineries - they all have great bottles!


When it comes to the Vancouver Wine Festival there is always one table I tell everyone to visit - Inland Trading

Greg Corra, Managing Director, brings serious stuff to the table - literally!  While some wineries bring, err, simple, cheap Monday night wines, Inland Trading brings some of Australia's best.
Bill Tieleman, Greg Corra and agent extraordinaire Megan Thompson 

Try the fabulous Greenock Creek Alicie's Block Shiraz 2010 at $55 - you will be blown away!  And then move up yet another big notch to the Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock Shiraz  2013 - stunning fruit, tannin and intensity! It retails at $87.

And don't miss Majella Wines nearby, with owner Brian Lynn and his wife Ros - their Sparking Shiraz 2012 is a total surprise and eyeopener if you haven't had it - a truly unique and great wine!  

And Grant Burge Wines are also next door with one of the tastiest - and most expensive - wines in the room - the Meshach Shiraz 2011 at $155 a bottle! Huge, beautiful wine.  Also try their Filsell Shiraz 2015 at $39 and Holy Trinity GSM 2013 at $40 if you are counting pennies! 


Cherry Pie - if you love Pinot Noir like I do, you simply can't miss this one: four Pinots, all great but the two big boys: Huckleberry Snodgrass Pinot Noir 2015 and Rodgers Creek Pinot Noir 2015 are killers at $92 each.  And the Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir 2014 at $73 is also awesome. 

Duckhorn Wine Company - four great wines, all $48 or more!  Brian Bostwick of Duckhorn brings the good stuff - including their Napa Valley Merlot 2014 at $67 a pop and a very tasty Napa Valley Chardonnay 2015 at $48 that are both outstanding!  And their Goldeneye Pinot Noir 2014 - sadly only at the Trade Show - is one of my all time favourite Pinot Noirs - and you can find it at some private stores for about $73.

New Zealand

Stoneleigh - my buddy Jim Robertson will pour you some excellent Stoneleigh Rapaura Pinot Noir 2016 - a really great Pinot at $32 - and the Stoneleigh Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc 2016 - another favourite at $25.  

Their Latitude wines are also excellent value.
Bill Tieleman, Jim Robertson and wine fiends! 

Where to begin?  Well, there's only one Champagne house - Laurent-Perrier - and there's no such thing as mediocre Champagne!  But their Grand Siecle at $180 a bottle is an absolute revelation!  No wonder the rich love Champagne - see why! 

Like Bordeaux?  If not, get that checked out - it's a serious illness!  I love it and you can get some wonderful wines at Sovex GrandsChateaux - including a Chateau Branas Grand Poujeaux 2009 at $78 that is really awesome and - hate me if you will for this - an excellent value.  Their Confidences De Prieure Lichine 2008 is also beautiful at $56 and they have two more Bordeaux! 


We can't forget our own great British Columbia wines - and there are also sparklers from Nova Scotia's L'Acadie Vineyards

I somehow have missed Cassini Cellars but won't make that mistake again after trying their Godfather Red 2012 - a massive wine that will make you an offer - you know the rest -at $75!  Also loved their Maximus 2012 at $40

Painted Rock - always a favourite and owner John Skinner is in the house.  Try the Estate Grown Red Icon 2015 - their flagship - at $54 - beautiful wine and a true value at that price.

And please don't neglect the rest of our awesome BC wineries - don't drink like an Albertan! ;-0  

Running out of time again - but don't miss Tenute Silvia Nardi for two great Brunellos - the Tenute Silvia Nardi Brunello di Montalcino 2012 at $59 and the stunning Tenute Silvia Nardi Brunello di Montalcino Manachiara 2012 at $115.  Simply beautiful wines with a long life ahead of them - unless you are easily tempted.

Tenute Sette Ponti - All great wines but the standout is the famous Tenute Sette Ponti  Oreno 2015 - awesomely big and bold - it will last a long time and at $90 you shouldn't open early.  Their Tenute Sette Ponti Crognolo at $39 is a Vancouver favourite and what you drink while waiting for the Oreno to mature! 


Bodega Catena Zapata - truly one of the most reliable wineries in the world - everything they do from entry level to flagship wines are fabulous!  You likely know their Malbec 2015 at $24 - because Vancouver drinks tons of it and for good reason.  But their Nicosia Vineyard Malbec 2013 at $100 shows just how far you can go with that varietal - into the stratosphere of excellence!  I also love their Alta Chardonnay 2015 at $39.


Another country that produces fabulous wines - go to Vina Montes and try the Purple Angel 2015 - it is outstanding Carmenere!  At $75 it is not cheap and the price has gone up  a fair bit in the last few years - but that's because it's well worth it.  Carmenere disappeared from Europe but this "Jurassic Park" grape as Montes calls it is superb and this is one of Chile's best expressions of its excellence.

Okay - I've now definitely run out of time and haven't scratched the surface of all the great wines and wineries at the Vancouver International Wine Festival!  If you're going today - I hope this helps and if you aren't - it was sold out ages ago - you may still find some of these fine wines at your liquor/wine store.  


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Open That Bottle Night!!! UPDATED! Saturday February 24 - 2018 is the night to open a special bottle languishing in your wine cellar!

UPDATED February 25 with new information!

Did you know that Saturday February 24, 2018 is Open That Bottle Night?

It's a brilliant idea started in 2000 by Wall Street Journal wine writers Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, who realized that way too many great bottles of wine were languishing in wine cellars - being kept for that "perfect" occasion that never came!  

I totally relate.  So often I've looked in my cellar and thought about opening a great Bordeaux or California cabernet sauvignon or BC pinot noir and then felt that the meal or the event was not grand enough or the guests attending might not appreciate the exceptional wine or some other reason that caused me to leave it in the cellar.

And - very sadly - I have had more than a few bottles go over the hill or actually off in my cellar because I'd left them too long.  There is nothing worse than opening an old and expensive bottle only to find that it has long ago passed its prime drinking age - or more awful still - is completely undrinkable!

So tonight I encourage you to do what I'll be doing - open a really great bottle of wine from the cellar and not worrying about the meal or anything else - because it's Open That Bottle Night - and you don't need any other reason! 

Let me know what you open - and I'll do the same right here! 
2004 Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

UPDATE:  Here's what I opened and enjoyed yesterday for Open That Bottle Night - a 2004 Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - a 96 point wine that the Wine Spectator ranked at 31 on their Top 100 Wines of 2010!  

Very glad I opened it too - because it was beautiful but also showing slight signs of deterioration - so it needed to be opened and enjoyed!  Here's that Wine Specatator said: 

“This changes all the time as you taste it, with aromas of dark fruit and porcini mushroom turning to cigar box and dried flowers. Full-bodied, with masses of fruit and chewy tannins. Really powerful and long.” 

And why did I open it last night? “Best after 2011.” Whoops! 
Chateau Guiraud 2006 Sauternes

I also felt like I should follow up with a second Open That Bottle Night selection, so I pulled out a 2006 Chateau Guiraud Sauternes rated 93 points by the Wine Spectator as well!

They said: "Subtle, but with complex aromas of honey, spices, apple pie and lemon candy. Full-bodied and medium sweet, with intense botrytis and lemon peel character and bright acidity. Powerful and long. Best after 2012."
And once again - I'm up to 6 years late! But on the Guiraud I don't notice any deterioration -and I've drank a 1989 Guiraud about 25 years after the grapes were picked - and it blew us all away - totally fresh!  So I wasn't as worried but still wanted to see how it developed.

This one will last in my fridge for a few very pleasant after dinner glasses.  

And here's a recent bottle I should have opened sooner but fortunately was still beautiful - the 2009 Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf-du-Pape white - a 93 point Wine Spectator rated wine.  Their review: 

"A lush, slightly languid style, with a brioche profile leading the way, followed by creamed melon and pear flavors moving gently behind. The rounded, open, flattering finish has nice weight and mouthfeel. Drink now through 2013. 150 cases made."

I could not disagree - but note the "drink through 2013" and I had it 5 years later!  I think it would have been still better if I'd done that - damn my delay! 

And of course - don't forget to attend the Vancouver International Wine Festival from February 24 to March 4, 2018 to taste some excellent wines to replenish your cellar - but hurry - almost every single event is sold out! 


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Full schedule of all 2018 Vancouver International Wine Festival events - with regional focus on Spain and Portugal

Barone Francesco Ricasoli and the Wine Barbarian - Bill Tieleman - at 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival 

Tickets for all events at the fabulous Vancouver International Wine Festival are selling fast - do not delay, especially if you want to attend one of the fascinating seminars or a winemaker's dinner at some of the city's top restaurants! 

The Wine Barbarian will be there - and will have tips for the always popular and sold out International Festival Tastings - so stay tuned here for more information as the big event approaches.  It runs from February 24 through March 4, 2018.

In fact, the Vintners' Brunch is already sold out, as our most of the wine dinners! 

And you don't want to miss the opportunity to meet and greet with true wine royalty - like Barone Francesco Ricasoli - above - who hosted a fabulous tasting of his great Chianti wines in 2016.  

Charles Smith of K Vintners with a fan at 2015 Wine Festival

Or talk with Charles Smith - far left - of K Vintners in Walla Walla, Washington - one of the best wineries in the United States!  Charles and his wines will be in attendance again this year.

There are so many great, once-in-a-lifetime events at the Wine Festival - so move fast to check them out and get your tickets.

For example, here's just one of the many seminars that looks awesome, with some of Spain's best wines and winemakers/owners in attendance to talk about everything from vineyard to techniques to what's in the bottle - and tickets at $85 are going fast!  Full details and ticket link here.


Saturday March 3 - 5:15 to 6:45 pm Vancouver Convention Centre West

"Blockbuster wines are being produced across Spain. Join Rhys Pender MW for a journey from the established classics of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, through intense wines from ancient vines, to the brilliant modern re-discoveries of Priorat, Jumilla and Yecla and the exciting new individual intrigue of the Pago DO’s.

Moderator: Rhys Pender MW

Panelists: Toni Batet, Daniel Castaño, Joan Cusine, Javier Delgato-Aurteneche, Loren Gil, Miguel Gil, Jose Luis Muguiro Jr., Javier Murua, Carmen Oros, Howard Price, Diego Ribbert

Featured wines:
Arínzano Vinos de Pago Arínzano Gran Vino White Pago 2014
Bodegas Tridente Rejon Trempranillo 2014
Bodegas Juan Gil Bodegas El Nido 2015
CVNE – Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España Imperial Gran Reserva 2010
Familia Castaño Casa Cisca 2014
Grupo Faustino Gran Reserva 2005
Guy Anderson Wines Anciano Old Vines Garnacha 2015
IberWine San Pedro Regalado Llano del Elena 2009
Marqués de Riscal Barón de Chirel 2013
Marqués de Riscal Barón de Chirel Verdejo 2015
Muriel Wines Conde de los Andes Red 2015
Gratavinum GV5, DOQ Priorat 2010

Wines subject to change"


Lastly - check out the amazing list of wineries that will be in attendance this year!  Once you do, I'm sure I will see you at the Wine Festival!