Friday, December 26, 2008

Icewine and Christmas Greetings!

Winter has hit all of Canada with a vengeance and British Columbians who can normally brag about their mild winter conditions, are shivering and shoveling on a daily basis. Vancouver Island, where I live, has seen up to and over 2 feet of snow in some areas. That includes my home. Those are pictures of my driveway and other than a path down the middle, I have given up on keeping it clear. I have rarely seen conditions like these in the 15 years I have lived here.
The good news for Icewine producers here in BC is that they were able to pick grapes for their 2008 vintage. When grapes are picked at this time they result in luscious fruity Icewines. If the required freezing temperature ( -8 degrees Celsius or 17.6 Farhenheit) does not come till January or Frebuary which is often the case, the fruit has become more dessicated and the resulting Icewines are more concentrated but do not display those big fresh fruit flavours. Growers in the Okanagan saw temperatures drop to -12 and with the wind chill factor to minus 21 degrees Celsius. As always my source for Icewine conditions was John Schreiner, the auther of the ultimate book on Icewine. I introduced my readers to John a few times and most recently on my September 5th blog entry.
I am eager to do some further posts on my Tuscan tour but it seems appropiate for this my 100th post to wish you all the best of the season and a Happy and Healthy New year. That means of course that you must do your share and continue to drink those Red Wines.
Greetings from Wilf and my little friend Maddie. That is a two foot snow bank behind her.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Travelling and Tasting Wine in Tuscany!

A news item on the total volume of wine for the 2008 Italian vintage as reported by the Associated Press puts Italy in the number one position as the world's largest wine producer. It has been copied verbatim by many leading newspapers. It never ceases to amaze me that news media do not check the accuracy of facts and figures. Thus the
Assoenologi's estimate of 44.5 billion liters, should have read 4.45billion. But you read it accurately here. It is 4.45 billion liters. Now that I have got that out of the way I can tell you that not only is it a larger volume but the grapes are wonderfully ripe and mature. Look at those Cabernet grapes. (click pic.)

Even the grapes for Vinsanto ( as pictured here) are juicy and delicious. The grapes shown here are Trebbiano grapes at the
Castello di Verrazzano estate winery.

My traveling buddy Sanjoy and I spent a delightful day at Ruffino's Tenuta Poggio Casciano property in Tuscany. Click on the map to enlarge and see Ruffino's other Tuscan properties.

Tenuta Poggio Casciano is a state of the art facility. Our gracious and very hospitable host Francesco Sorelli made our visit a memorable one. Knowledgeable and dedicated, he gave me enough information to write a book. Ruffino was established by two cousins, Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino. In 1913 having no heirs, they decided to sell to the Folonari brothers, Italo and Francesco. Their proud history and traditions were carried on by the brothers. Ruffino was the first Italian winery to export Italian wines to the United States. Before treating us to a magnificent lunch with wines matched to each course, he gave us an extended tour of the magnificent cellar and facility. History seeps out of the walls and their wine cellar is just like you always pictured a wine cellar to look like.

I am not going into a detailed description of the wines we tasted. I am leaving that for my email newsletter I send out on a regular basis. It is also called Wilf's Wine Press. But here is the line up.
2007 Libaio Toscana IGT Chardonnay. Unoaked,it is fresh, clean and rich on the palate.
2007 La Solatia Chardonnay Toscana IGT
It has 10% Viognier added and this well balanced wine is rich in fruit aromas and on the palate.
2004 Nero al Tondo Pinot Noir Toscana IGT. This one is not available anywhere except for in house use and a few lucky journalists like myself. Ah, The touch of tuscan soil and forrests mingle with rich cherry aromas. Well balanced acidity and lingering flavours.
2007 Il Ducale Toscana IGT. This is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot. Fruity and velvety tannins, it matched beautifully with the Pappa al Pomodoro we were served. Loved the wine and loved that true Tuscan dish.
2005 Tenuta Lodola Nuovo Vino Nobile Montepulciano DOCG which is predominantly made with Prugnolo Gentile grapes. Rich aromas of spice, earth and cherries which carries on to the palate. Red berries and plum on a long lingering finish.
2006 Tenuta Santedame Chianti Classico DOCG made up with 85% Sangiovese and 15% other varietals. The colour is a violet best described as "mammole" which is a special violet. Complex aromatics mingle with spicy scents, elegant on the palate and a lingering, long satisfying finish. A beautiful match for the rich pork dish and roast potatoes we were served. It all ended too soon with the 2004 Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG. This of course is Ruffino's flagship world renowned wine. Country fresh fruit, complex spicy notes with sweet tannins, elegant in structure and a long lingering satisfying finish. Very fruit driven and food friendly and a oh so worthy of aging. Long will I remember this wonderful visit. I really liked Italian wines and food before this, now I can only say I really love their food and wine. Thanks to Francesco for being such a wonderful ambassador for Ruffino. I have been making some delightful Italian dishes since my return home. I have used a good many recipes forwarded to me by friends and found on the web. But I have also modified and added some of my own twists to some of them. One of the dishes that has become a regular for me is the Bucatini alla Matriciana. Thanks Bobby, but I have altered your recipe somewhat, adding a little home made Pesto sauce among other things. Want to see how it is done Tuscan style in a Florence kitchen? Watch this video and open that bottle of Ruffino Chianti and get ready to enjoy a great meal with a super food friendly wine.

Thats me toasting our host. Ruffino also produces some very good olive oils which we applied liberally to the tuscan bread and of course you need Pelligrini to clear your palate for the next part of the adventure.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When Wine flows like water...... probably have a plumbing problem! At least that is what happened at this year's annual Sagra dell Uva Grape Festival in the city of Marino. Every year, since 1925, the city of Marino celebrates one of the oldest wine festivals in Italy. Marino is located in the wine making region of Lazio in the Alban Hills south of Rome. This year the festival had a delightful turn of events when residents turning on their taps were surprised with a free flowing supply of local wine. Sad to say we were not there. But we did get our share of local wines and food while traveling all over Tuscany with my buddy Sanjoy from California. Having just returned, hence my lack of postings to my blog, I must say I am missing all that good food and wine. We visited the major DOCG regions and some of the more important DOC's like Montalcino, Montepulciano and
Driving along the Strada del Chianti ( SS 222) you get a wonderful sense of what the Tuscan countryside is like. That large picking basket just seems to be waiting to be filled up and 2008 appears to be bountiful with good quality grapes throughout the region.
Just look at those beautiful bunches of Sangiovese grapes. Lush, ripe and mature and oh so sweet. These were scheduled for picking the day after our visit to the vineyard. Click on the pic to get a better view.

In my next posts I will be going into more details about some of the wineries we visited. All well known and all outstanding producers. Names like Ruffino, Cecchi and Ornelaia are recognized around the globe and we had the pleasure of visiting with them. Met an outstanding young winemaker in Bolgheri and was really impressed with his style of wine. I will be telling you more about Alessandro Dondi at the Castello di Bolgheri.
Tuscany, one big happy vineyard and I am already looking forward to a return visit. We maybe going through some world wide financial crisis but I tell you Italian food and wines give me comfort and lifts my spirits. But then good food and wine tends to do that. I will leave you with a message captured in this picture taken outside St. Francis' Basilica in Assisi. Yes, we did get in
some fantastic sightseeing and of course sampled local foods and wines.
So Peace to you all, enjoy your wines and good things are bound to come your way.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Politics & Wine!

Just received my copy of Tyler Colman's "Wine Politics" but since I am of to Italy in a couple of days, I will have to read it when I get back. But here are a few of my thoughts on politics and how they have influenced wine and wine consumption for thousands of years. Speaking of Italy, I guess you could say that is where it all began. When Roman armies invaded and conquered one European country after another they planted vineyards along the way. Not very nice to be taken over by a foreign army but how often do you end up with some nice vineyards in your backyard planted by your enemy?
It is generally believed that Georgia is the oldest wine region in the world where it all began some 7000 years ago and it is often referred to as 'the birthplace of wine'
Some archaeologists now believe that wine may first have been produced in Iran.
However I have"Georgia on my mind" when it comes to classic manipulation of wine for political purposes. Back in March of 2006 Russia put an embargo on wine from Georgia
claiming to have found heavy metals and pesticides in their wines. A little political economic blackmail to punish pro west Georgia. Russia had been the largest consumer of Georgian wine accounting for up to 85% of its production. But over the next couple of years Georgia found markets in other European countries, notably Poland. Taking it one step further the recent invasion of Georgia by the Russian army resulted in Polish wine drinkers, in support and solidarity with Georgia, to encourage all Polish people to drink Georgian wines. Watch for Russia to take punitive measures to punish those popular pro west Poles.
And then of course there is always the "politically correct" factor in wine consumption. A few years back a good friend of mine, who happened to be the XO on one of Canada's navy ships, was informed that Canada's ambassador to the UN would be making a visit to our west coast navy base in Esquimalt and that the ambassador wished to have a meal with the officers on his ship.
He was instructed as to the wines to be served with dinner but when my friend read that they were French wines he had a rebellious fit. Not on his ship! British Columbia wines or nothing. Hastily the protocol officer for the ambassador admitted this "oversight" and BC wines would be served.
In my own case I fought the government for 4 years in an attempt to get a licence to sell BC wines. Finally BC's Attorney General himself overturned the liquor control board's decision not to give me a licence. Talk about heavy handed politics! And so on and on it goes. Yes, I am afraid politics in wine is here to stay. I am sure there are countless stories out there about politics and wine. What is yours?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Welcome to New Wine Blog!!

It gives me great pleasure to welcome and introduce a new wine blogger, Canada's well known
John Schreiner.
I have had the pleasure of knowing John for many years. John has had a long and distinguished career as a reporter and writer. He began as a reporter for the Regina Leader-Post and subsequently became the newspaper's chief political reporter in the Saskatchewan Legislature. In 1961 John joined the staff of The Financial Post in Toronto. Served in the paper's Montreal bureau from 1967 t0 1969 and in 1973 became the bureau chief in Vancouver for that newspaper. John "retired" in 2001 but has been busier than ever adding to his already impressive list of 15 books on wine.
John has also been the regional correspondent for Appelation America.
So now he has added blogging to his endeavours and you can click on
"John Schreiner on Wine" in my links list or follow this link to his blog
The first Canadian Icewine was made by Walter Hainle in 1973 in Peachland in the Okanagan and yes it was several years before Ontario started making
John is the world most knowledgeable expert on Icewine or Eiswein and his book
Icewine-The Complete Story is a must read for anyone wanting to learn more on this fascinating wine. I did a post on the 2006 Icewine harvest in BC and you can scroll down in my December 2006 archives to Dec. 3
to get John's take on it.
Welcome John!! I am sure we will get many informative and entertaining posts.
Speaking of entertaining, I have just put a link to "My Favorite Canadian Wine Lady"
in my links list. Follow the link and have a look. She has a great newsletter that you can sign up for. I don't know how she does it all. Daenna is a very knowledgeable (and beautiful) wine lady and she is the Diva of wine. Welcome to my links list Daenna.
So there you have it. I am off to Italy on September 17th but will get one more post in on "politics" and wine before I go. Pliny the Elder has been quoted as follows. "It has become a commonplace proverb that in wine there is truth" Yes and isn't it too bad that so much in the way of politics is commonplace as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Smoke Gets in Your Wine!

Or rather, smoke gets into your vine. As the saying goes: "Where there is smoke, there is fire!" California has seen many fires this summer and for vintners it has been "where there is fire there is smoke". Smoke taint in wine is not easily removed. The summer of 2003 saw major brush fires in Australia. Here in British Columbia, the Okanagan Mountain Park fire in August of 2003 saw 45,000 residents evacuated and 239 homes burned down.Tom Di Bello, a graduate of the University of California, Davis, is the winemaker at the Cedar Creek Estate winery in BC and is getting a lot of calls from vintners in California. He had to attempt to salvage some badly tainted grapes. I tasted his premium Pinot Noir from the barrel while up in the Okanagan in the spring of 2004 and let me tell you smoke taint ain't what I like in my wine. In the end this wine was used in their entry level red blend. If a wine is badly tainted it is pretty much a write off. Tom tells me that this particular batch of Pinot Noir was the worst tainted wine on record anywhere. A rather dubious and unwanted distinction. If the damage is not severe Tom recommends a method now widely used to reduce or remove smoke taint, Reverse Osmosis. Nanno filtration, micro-oxygenation and activated charcoal are other methods employed. Getting those grapes in as fast as possible if the fire happens near grape picking time is essential. Whole cluster pressing and no skin contact is what Tom suggests and forget about making a red wine. Just make a rosé.
I had the pleasure of meeting Hugh Hamilton from McLaren Vale in Australia and tasting his remarkable wines when he made a visit to Victoria this summer. Not only does Hugh have a great sense of humor (Is that an Australian trait?) but he makes outstanding wines. Talk turned to taint and I am endebted to Hugh for some very valuable info regarding smoke damage to grape crops. Australia of course not only suffered great losses in 2003 but major brush fires were a problem in 2007 as well. The McLaren region was lucky enough to escape both times.
The latest research seems to indicate that grapes do not actually absorb smoke directly, but rather the smoke compounds are absorbed by the leaves and translocated to the berries.

(pictured here is the Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003)
Meanwhile back to the Okanagan. The picture below shows their entrance gate and the total devastation of the St.Hubertus Estate Winery. The winery building, a residence, tasting room and the entire crop was lost. By some blessed miracle the winery's storage facility with all the previous vintage wines and their entrance gate survived. They used to produce a Bacchus wine which is no longer produced. Too bad, I really liked it. But I think Bacchus, the God of wine, smiled down on Leo and Andy, the two brothers who operate the winery. They had brand new facilities up and running in no time and their wines are better than ever.Good luck to all California wineries who will be daeling with the problem of smoke damage to their crops. It will be interesting to see how they fare.The picture at the top? Those are real grape vine leaves, but it ain't smoke and it ain't a real fire. Just me trying to be artistic for this blog entry on "Smoke Gets in Your Wine"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Never a dull moment in California Wine Country!

Just putting the finishing chapter on my California adventure and Paso Robles wine country in this post. But I want to dedicate this post to the lovely lady pictured here, my friend Jan. Not only did she put up with me for a week but she introduced me to the fabulous Meyers lemon. Thanks for everything, Jan.
So many things to see and do around wine country. And of course so many great places to eat. At the end of one day of tasting we ended up on Novo's outdoor patio in San Luis Obispo. Great way to finish the day. Can you imagine California without Two Buck Chuck? Just had to get a picture of that at Trader Joe.
As always, click on the pics to get the large view.

What is more Californian than Pebble Beach?
Did not get to play on any of the courses but it is sure stunning to look at the various courses and of course the beautiful beach.

Oh yea, happened to stay outside of Pismo Beach one night and took a quick look in town the next morning. It just so happened they were getting ready for the 23rd Annual Pismo Beach Classic Car Show. No wine served there but what would a classic car show be without a "bud"
Not one but two huge Budweiser trucks showed up for this event.

While visiting in the area you cannot miss going to Carmel. Great art galleries all over town. Oh and yes there are no stop lights and get this, no street lights. So bring your flashlight if you are going around town at night. My friend Sanjoy, Jan's husband, took me to this real funky eating establishment. The Casanova is a "must" stop to eat restaurant. Great food, fast and friendly service and an amazing wine list. I knew that I would get at least one mention of wine on this blog entry. With over 30,000 bottles in the cellar, they are the annual recipient of the Wine Spectator Grand Award. Jean Hubert, operations manager at Casanova, showed us where those
30,000 bottles were resting. Some rare dust covered wines are nestled down there, aging beautifully. Want to know the intriguing story of that table pictured below? Fascinating piece of history. Follow this link and you will find out.

Lunch was so enjoyable. We picked a nice Chablis and it went down perfectly since the day was another hot one.
Of course if you happen to go there for dinner, you can browse through 60 pages of their wine list.
So there you have it.
My next blog entry will be on "Where there is smoke, there is fire" Or in the case of California where there are fires there is a lot of smoke. Thought I would leave you with one final bit of true California. These two must have shared a bottle of bubbly. Happiness and Health to all of you!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Superlative, Super Wines from Paso Robles!

Before I get to some of the outstanding wineries we visited let me thank David and Russ for leaving comments on my first Paso Robles post. Be sure to read them. The picture on the left is the vineyard directly in front of the L'Aventure Winery where Bordeaux expatriate Stephan Asseo does his magic. The impressive, immaculately kept vineyards are a promise of what you can expect when you taste his wines.
Stephan had always wanted to blend Bordeaux varietals with others like Syrah. French appellation regulations prevented him from doing so. The result was that he moved to Paso Robles and the rest is history. His wines are highly rated by the likes of Robert Parker, the Wine Spectator and Decanter and have been extensively written up in many publications, so I won't go into any details here.

Now, if you want to have some fun be sure to visit Zin Alley where Frank and Connie will proudly pour you their remarkable Zinfandel. Only 500 cases a year are produced on their three acre Nerelli Estate. The dry-farmed, head pruned
vines are grown on Linne Calodo soils with hot summer days and cool coastal nights resulting in a
complex Zinfandel. Connie has a great sense humor, as you will discover when you visit them.
Looking for a great Bed & Breakfast place to stay at while visiting Paso Robles? Look no further than the beautiful Venteux Vineyards Bed & Breakfast right on the Venteux Vineyards property.
This 10 acre vineyard is also dry-farmed and the vines are head-trained as well. Scott and Bobbi Stelze are at the helm of this well run vineyard and winery. Located in what is known as the Templeton Gap, which brings the cool coastal breezes to an otherwise hot region. Their wines have become so popular that visitors are limited to 2 bottles of most of their wines. Scott specializes in Syrah, Petite Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. When he is not tending his vineyard or making his beautiful wines he restores old Dodge trucks and is as meticulous about that as he is about his wines.

The next winery, which is actually the first one we visited in Paso Robles, is a must visit before Parker or any other wine critic finds out about them. Run by a couple of very cheerful fellows who are just having fun while making outstanding wines. I think we agreed that the wines of Bella Luna Winery were our favorites of all the wines we tasted during our Paso Robles tour.
Kevin Healy, a Vietnam veteran and Sherman Smoot, a Navy fighter pilot, grew up together in Paso Robles and their lifelong friendship and passion for wine resulted in the establishing of the Bella Luna Winery. This five acre estate specializes in the Italian Barbera and Sangiovese and the Spanish Tempranillo. Of course Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are there as well. Yes, the Zinfandel is called Fighter Pilot Red to honor all aviators who have put themselves in harm's way. All of their wines are simply amazing. Rich and powerful with great extraction. Natural yeasts, no fining or filtering produces wines that are bold and full of character. We all know about the famous Sassicaia wine from Tuscany, but wait these two gents are out to show that their Paso Robles version will be every bit as good if not better.
Scheduled to be released in May of 2009, it will have spent 40 months in new French oak. And of course it will be called Bellicaia. This 2005 vintage super Tuscan style is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese. We had the opportunity of tasting it out of the barrel.
It is superlative now. What will it be like when it is released next May? I can only drool but hope to get my hands on some before it flies out of the winery. Yes, Paso Robles and its many fine family run wineries are definitely worth a visit.
As always click on the pictures to get the larger view. On my next blog entry I will share some pictures of interest I took during my visit to California and they are not necessarily wine related.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Don't Pass Up Paso Robles Wineries!

I have been shamefully neglectful about getting a post to my blog but I have had good excuses. Its the lazy hazy days of summer but as well I have given a few wine and food seminars, did a number of tastings with my panel for my email newsletter, attended trade tastings, wine- makers' dinners, entertained out of town guests and most importantly spend some time with friends in California and visited the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards and the great little wineries in Paso Robles.
(Click on the map for an enlarged version)
For my food and wine seminar one of the food items I used is a nifty little recipe from my British friend, Nick Stephens over at Bordeaux-Undiscovered from his recipe section. Its called Angels on Horseback. Just slightly chilling that Pinot Noir did the trick, Nick. While talking recipes, I used to marinate my fresh BC salmon with two or three different home made marinades but not anymore. Picked up this marvelous way to BBQ salmon from David Crowley over at Cooking Chat. Here is his recipe and it is really good!
Sorry I missed you this trip, Russ. Catch you next time I am down your way. Russ Beebe is the fellow from Winehiker Viticulture fame. Russ is a smart operator and he knows his business inside out. Be sure to read his good sense.... no, great sensible approach on mountain lions. While you are at, read my comment. I just happen to agree with Russ 100%.
So now I want to touch on the Paso Robles scene. I will do two posts on my trip. I have enough info and pictures to do half a dozen or so. My good friends Jan and Sanjoy in Scotts Valley treated me royally and one night we went to another friend, Herman and that was a feast I will long remember. Butterflied leg of lamb and here is what he chose to bring out of his cellar to match with it. No wonder I cannot do a proper post after my trip to California.
That's a 1975 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1978 Ridge California Zinfandel. Needless to say they went down well. My friend Sanjoy (He is my Investor Friend that I have a link to and he has a free interesting and informative newsletter that you can sign up for.) is a great chef and not to be outdone also brought out some of his finest a couple of nights later for another feast.
Herman just happened to bring along the remainder of that 1971 Chateau d'Yquem to give the dessert a little competition.
Click on both these pictures to get a closer look.
Before I get to the Paso Robles scene, I must mention a couple of the Santa Cruz Mountain wineries.
The first one we drove up to is quite a spectacular place on top of the mountain. Great views, amazing facility and wonderful wines. Worthy of a visit. The Byington Vineyard & Winery was established in 1987 by Bill Byington and
the building was originally conceived as a family residence.
Some residence! The grapes for some of their Cabernet Sauvignon wines actually come from the Paso Robles region. I found their 2004 Tarman Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Dry Creek to be outstanding and their 2004 Messina Vineyard Merlot to be exceptional. The other winery of note is the Hallcrest Vineyards
located in Felton, California. So you don't even have to get up into the mountains for this one. Just drive into Felton. Everybody will know where it is. Outstanding wines and a bonus for me is that they are available here in BC through Blue Nose Wine & Spirits. Their Pinot Noirs are superior.
No wonder they can claim to be the most awarded winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Now onto Paso Robles. As you can see from the map, there are plenty of wineries to visit. We visited some of the best. I think one of the more noticeable features in the vineyards is that a lot of them use dry farming and head trained vines. Dry farming may be unusual in California but not in the Paso Robles region.
Can it get any hotter and drier looking than this?
You'd swear you were in Spain. No that is a head trained, dry farmed vineyard in Paso Robles. So now that I have hopefully got your interest piqued, I am going to leave you but I will be back soon with my next update on some of the fine wines and wineries in Paso Robles.
That picture (click to enlarge) was taken while the temperature was a mere 107 degrees F.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Billionaire's Vinegar 2nd Edition

And so the saga continues. As reported in Decanter, there is new evidence in the Jefferson bottles case. One of the main characters in the book is William Koch, a Florida billionaire, and he claims to have new evidence that will once and for all prove Hardy Rodenstock's guilt.
So perhaps Benjamin Wallace will have to consider writing a revised edition of his book. Since the film rights to the book have been optioned, the continuation of this story will make for an even more exciting movie. It will be fascinating to see who will play Michael Broadbent and who will be the actress taking on the role of Jancis Robinson.
Speaking of billions, the news that Foster's in Australia is considering shedding its wine division has investors and growers worrying and wondering. Foster's spent $6.8 billion getting into the wine business by acquiring Beringer Wine Estates and Southcorp Ltd. in the US. Flagging world wide beer sales triggered this expansion. Wine sales continue to increase world wide. Here in Canada, and we are a beer drinking nation, wine sales have increased yearly and beer sales are down according to Statistics Canada.
So it seems to me rather counter productive to sell off a potentially lucrative business. Another eyebrow raiser is the sale by the world's largest wine producer, Constellation Brands, of 5 well-known California brands, two Washington state and one Idaho winery. A strong Euro and increased wine consumption in the US has benefited American wineries. Again another puzzling corporate decision. So if you don't like the company that owns your favorite winery, wait a month or two, it is likely to change hands soon. Billions of dollars at play. In the meantime I will just continue to enjoy my daily fruit of the vine and since I am leaving for a week of visiting wineries in California, I am sure to be tasting my way through some fabulous examples. My camera and I are ready.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wine, Vinegar....and Billionaires!

Just finished reading "The Billionaire's Vinegar"
by Benjamin Wallace,Crown Publishers, New York. A very impressive detailed book on the history and the mystery surrounding a 1787 Chateau Lafite which went at the incredible auction price of $156,00. The bottle was auctioned off by Christie's of London and was supposed to have been owned by none other than America's first wine connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson. I love mystery stories and I love
history surrounding wine. After all it has been around for over 6000 years. Benjamin Wallace has created a wonderfully detailed account of the Thomas Jefferson wines. A thriller from start to finish. Its rather sad that the great gift of the fruit of the vine should be turned into an object of greed. You soon know who the culprit is in this story. And of course well known figures in the world of wine are not spared in this saga either. The well known and respected Michael Broadbent is a key player in this whole affair. Mr.Broadbent claims there are many inaccuracies in the book. I doubt that he will come forward and tell us what they are. In the end the pathetic Hardy Rodenstock has not done the wonderful world of wine any favours and you can only hope that Bacchus and any other Gods of wine out there, show him some mercy.
Just when I finished reading this book I received the sad news of the passing of a dear wine friend of mine here in British Columbia. Claude Jacques Violet passed away on May 31st, 2008.
A true pioneer in the BC wine industry. Claude and his magnificent wife of 49 years, Ingeborg, known by her friends as "Ingy" dared to be different. Visit the Domain de Chaberton's web site to get the details about the Violets. Click on "winery" and then "about us"to get the history of
Claude and Ingy. More than 300 years of wine history can be attributed to the Violet family. What has always struck me and left me so very impressed was their sincerity, their honesty and their dedication to anything wine and their community. They say behind every good man, stands a good woman. Only in this case beside a "great" man stood a great woman. Claude you will be missed my friend.
Shady characters like the one in "The Billionaire's Vinegar" will come and go. But wonderful people like Claude will be in our hearts and minds forever. Rest in peace, mon ami and I am sure that right now you are having a great conversation in that big vineyard in the sky with the winemaker of the 1787 Chateau Lafite.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Heart and Soul of Wine.

Berry Bros & Rudd recently released a report on the future of wine.
They are of course Britain's oldest wine establishment, celebrating their 310th anniversary this year. I have a great respect for this vintage company but do not agree with everything covered in this report. (For those of you interested in reading the entire report, email me at and I will send you a pdf copy)
Their claims on China as a future rival to Bordeaux are refuted by people in the know as evidenced by comments left on
There is an intense interest in wine around the globe and a thirst for knowledge about the subject. Bloggers and writers everywhere giving us daily doses and we can't seem to get enough of it. We all know how wine drinkers progress from the sweet barely drinkable wines but eventually will settle for the many outstanding wines available today. I think of my own journey along the road of wine which started while in college. Mateus was where it was at. So I find Jasper Morris' MW
prediction somewhat unbelievable.
"In 50 years, consumers will ask for wine by the brand name or flavour and won't know, or care, where it has come from. Grapes will be genetically modified to change a wine's taste and producers will add artificial flavourings to create a style wanted by consumers." I cannot visualize the wine consuming public dumbing down and ordering a "Waitrose White" or a "Rosemount Red"
The quality of wines will continue to improve. It has to, if wineries expect to sell their wines in this highly competitive market. An example of this happening is the creation of a "crus" appellation in the Minervois region of the Languedoc. The
AOC Minervois La Livinière
was established in 1999. This past week I had the pleasure of meeting Isabelle Coustal, the proprietor and wine maker at Chateau Saint Eulalie.
Her Chateau Sante Eulalie La Cantilene is an outstanding wine and an example of what the future holds for us wine drinkers not content to drink the commercial plonk. We tasted Isabelle's Plaisir d'Eulalie. and it truly is a pleasure. Candle light and wine shared with friends enjoying a good meal came to my mind. Now I won't be around 50 years from now to say I told you the BBR report was not accurate, but future wine drinkers will be enjoying some amazing wines like the ones coming from the Minervois La Liviniere today. And with wine makers like Isabelle leading the way the Heart and Soul of good wines will be passed on to wine drinkers 50 years from now.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Nose Knows Fine Wine!

Birds do it! Bees (wasps) do it! And of course dogs do as well. Do what? Use their sense of smell. They do it so well that they are being trained to do some pretty amazing tasks. Wasps
could be trained and very cost effectively at that, to detect toxic chemicals and explosives. That would make for an interesting scenario at our international airports. Instead of sniffer dogs you would see inspectors walking around with jars of wasps. Birds also have a strong sense of smell. It turns out they use their sense of smell to detect possible predators. Our dear dogs are being trained to detect the nasty vine mealy bugs which have become a challenging problem in California vineyards. It is quite obvious that in every case this is part of their genetic make up. It comes naturally so to speak. I am sure momma and papa wasp aren't taking time out to teach the little ones. By the way that is my little dog Maddie in the picture. Click on the pic. to get a closer look at what she is doing. I am teaching her to detect TCA in my wines. So what is all the buzz and surprise about our sense of smell and taste being part of our genetic makeup? An interesting article by Dan Berger over at Appellation America discusses how recent research has come up with the idea that our genes may be a factor in how we smell and taste our wines. Really now? So perhaps who you are will determine whether or not you should pay attention to Parker points or any other subjective point system. Speaking of Robert, has he been blessed with an abundance of smelling and tasting genes? They say that as you get older your sense of smell and taste are likely to be less intense. So does that mean he will be retiring soon? After all he will be turning 61 this July. And how about that $1 million insurance policy he has on his nose and palate? Will his insurer be taking a second look at his coverage? If your genetic makeup plays a large role in what you can taste and smell how do you insure your genes? Just some points to ponder. In the meantime drink what you like and like the wines you drink.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Do Capsules on Wine Bottles Impress You?

I had not really given much thought to wine bottle capsules until I read the feature article in the March issue of Wines&Vines magazine on capsules. "Capsules in Transition" gets down to the nuts and bolts and its importance in the marketing scheme. Wine Business Monthly does a capsule survey every two years. The last one was in 2006, so we are due for one this year. It will be interesting to see the change in trends when the survey is released. As pointed out in the Wines&Vines article the cost factor will have a determining influence.
All the wine press has focussed its attention on the pros and cons of cork versus screw-caps and it seems capsular comments have been few. Screw-caps had long been considered by many wine drinkers as closures for inexpensive or inferior wines. That is certainly not the case today. A press release in February 2007 boldly announced that Boisset would be launching both a Grand Cru and a Premier Crus under screw-cap.

But capsules? I just have not been paying too much attention. OK, a funky label might get my attention when I am shopping for wine. But I have never turned away from a wine because of its capsule or for that matter bought one because the capsule gave a "buy me" message. I have to admit that lead capsules always appealed to me. They seemed somehow to denote and give a certain grandeur to a bottle of wine. So I went and paid a visit to my humble little wine cellar to see just what kind of capsules I have been collecting. Ah, there is one with a lead capsule! It turned out to be a 1976 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. Not a great vintage but a good one. It needs to be consumed now! Had I ignored this noble wine because of a secret admiration for lead capsules? Fond dreams and memories of great wines are part of the charm of drinking wine. Changes in capsule styles should never interfere with those special moments in the presence of a gift as great as a good bottle of wine. Sure would like to receive some capsular comments on this topic.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

ROSÉ and BEAUJOLAIS.. are here to stay!!

Preferences and fads in wine styles come and go. The movie "Sideways"
created an increased demand for Pinot Noir. That seems to have settled back and now Merlot sales are increasing once again. With consumers becoming ever more knowledgeable about wines, might we see a decrease
in the ever popular "White Zinfandel"? While I like my reds and certain white varietals, there is something undeniably pleasant about a good rosé.

Sales of rosé wines are on the increase.
But what always baffles me is the continuing success of Beaujolais Nouveau. Released on the third Thursday of each November it has been a marketing success. Over 65 million bottles are sold annually, which accounts for more than half of all the wine produced in the Beaujolais.
Say "Beaujolais" and the average wine drinker thinks of it in terms of Nouveau. What a shame.
Because Beaujolais produces some outstanding wines at reasonable prices.
There are five classifications of Beaujolais:
Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, Beaujolais Superieur, Beaujolais Villages and the 10 Beaujolais Crus. The ten village Crus from north to south are St.Amour,Julie
nas, Moulin-a-Vent, Chenas, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnie, Brouilly and Cote de Brouilly. The Beaujolais Crus are the spritual home of the Gamay Grape. Most Beaujolais should be drunk young but the Crus are much more concentrated and the best can be kept for up to 1o years.They can then resemble a mature Pinot Noir but at a much lower price. Its time for Beaujolais! I know, they do not get Parker points. Not big and bold enough. But there in lies their charm. And if you want to get away from those high alcohol, over-powering wines look no further.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eat, Drink (Wine) and be Merry.....

..... for tomorrow you die! Or so British Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo and her anti-wine drinking cohorts would have women believe, if they consume one glass of wine a night. A report released by the minister claims that "Women who regularly drink too much are 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer."
Ever since the now famous French Paradox was aired on the CBS weekly program "60 minutes" back in November of 1991, the clock has been ticking and almost weekly another "scientific" report tells us about the benefits of drinking red wine. The latest study from Spain states that polyphenols in red wine can prevent high blood pressure in older women. A new study at University of Rochester Medical Center shows antioxidants to be effective in killing pancreatic cancer cells. The media of course jump on these reports to bring you both negative and positive claims about the consumption of wine. Some of the evidence for the healthful benefits is almost anecdotal, some semi-scientific and but a lot are studies undertaken using classic scientific methods. None seem to be totally conclusive and will remain that way until a study involving a large number of wine drinkers, consuming equal amounts over a long period of time can be evaluated. In the meantime governments will continue to reap the benefits of collecting huge amounts of revenue in the form of additional taxes. Not much we can do about that, I guess. There are human endeavors that are much more dangerous than drinking your favorite glass of wine. Try white water rafting, mountain climbing, skiing or just plain driving your car. So my advice to you based on personal research over many years..... drink your wine and enjoy to the fullest, for tomorrow you....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Overwhelmed by Wine!

Are you an overwhelmed wine drinker? I am. But not in the sense that the marketing gurus have determined what the definition of an overwhelmed drinker is. In a study commissioned by Constellation Wines US. Wine consumers were broken down into six categories. So why am I overwhelmed? Not by the sheer numbers of wines available from around the globe but rather by the "so much wine, so little time"factor. And I love trying wines from different regions in the world whenever I can get them. When I travel to different parts of the country and to other countries I drink "local" wines as much as possible. I read a lot of wine blogs but I have to say that I do not find the endless reviewing of wines on these blogs to be particularly useful. Mostly because I cannot purchase the wine described at any of the wine shops I frequent locally. But also because of my philosophy about wine. Wine to me is the most wonderful drink in the world to be enjoyed to the fullest. This frenetic chasing of one wine after another does not give me the peace and joy I have come to expect from wine. I have a dozen or so I fall back on for that purpose and then will taste others for a change of pace.
Having said all that I have a wine newsletter by the same name as my blog "Wilf's Wine Press" and I have a panel of 8 tasters to help me review wines. You will not often see me reviewing a wine on this blog because of the fact that chances are you will not be able to find them where you live. So what's the point in you reading about a wine you cannot get. My newsletter's subscribers are for the most part (95%) local and at least the wines I review will be available to them.
So keep on drinking. (wine of course) And perhaps someday soon we will be able to try a wine from a far off Arab state. There might be a rocket or two resting among the rocks in their vineyards but that will just add to the "terroir" taste. Or is that terror?