Thursday, March 30, 2017

1990 Chateauneuf-du-Pape

  A few weeks ago I had the rare opportunity to open, decant and taste an iconic French wine from the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region in France. My brother received a gift of a 1990 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateaneuf-du-Pape wine. He wanted everyone in the family to experience a wine that had been stored for over 26 years. This is a wine that should be enjoyed and savoured for its complexity. It’s a complicated mix of grapes like Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault, Vaccarese, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Picpoul, Picardan, Bourboulenc, and Roussanne. All of these grapes combined yield a wine that is both intense and a mosaic of flavours. It’s as complicated as the papal history of Chateauneuf-de-Pape.

 If we go back to 1990 when the wine was bottled, Margret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the UK, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the U.S. invaded Panama. So a lot has happened in the world since this wine was originally corked. It’s almost a piece of history or a marker in time. Since this bottle had been sitting for a quarter century (hopefully stored correctly) it needed to be decanted properly as there would be substantial sediment in the wine which you definitely don’t want to drink.

This is where the story goes slightly off the rails. Somewhere during the day my brother had sent a text message asking me to bring a decanting set so that we could properly decant the wine. Well, needless to say I failed to notice that I had a text message so when I showed up at the door he asked “Did you bring it?” to which I answered with a puzzle look on my face “Bring what?” “Did you get my text message?” to which I answered while reaching for my cell phone, “What text message?” Rather than drive for 45 minutes back to my house we decided to “MacGyver” a decanting set which consisted of an empty clean wine bottle, a funnel, a strainer, an unbleached coffee filter and a steady hand. The first hurdle was to get the cork out without breaking it into a million pieces. Slowly we inserted the corkscrew and then tried pulling it out like two surgeons removing an engorged gall bladder. Unfortunately, the cork broke half way out and I was forced to go back in several times with the corkscrew. After some grunting and many curse words, it finally came out with a bit of tartaric crystal deposit on the bottom of the cork (see cork picture). 

We then assembled the improvised decanting set and started carefully pouring the wine like it was nitroglycerin. There was some minor spillage which was followed by more blasphemy but we managed to decant most of the wine. The bottle had substantial sediment in the bottom (see picture) which didn’t end up in the decanted bottle. A job somewhat well done so we let the wine sit for an hour to breathe before tasting it.

 Needless to say it was well worth the wait. After a quarter century the wine had changed from a dark red to a garnet colour with a well defined water line around the edge of the glass. The aroma was distinct and earthy in nature but no sign of spoilage. After taking the first sip we stared at each other for a few seconds with mouths full of 26 year old blended wine expecting someone’s face to go sour but we were pleasantly surprised that the Chateauneuf-du-Pape had a mid to long finish of sour cherry and an almost raisin flavour. As I sat at the dinner table looking at the iconic wine swirl in my glass and savouring the last drops I reflected back on the events of 1990. The music group Milli Vanilli had an almost cult following on the pop charts. Hmmm.. I guess some things age better than others.     

If you would like to buy your own piece of history and age it for a quarter century, you can purchase a 2014 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape at the LCBO for $89.95 (711317)

1990 Chateau de Beaucastel – Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

Monday, February 6, 2017

Love that Broadhead Beer !!

  I like craft beer and I've tried a lot of them (trust me). Every once and awhile you come across an exceptional beer. It may not be the particular style you prefer like an IPA, lager or an amber ale but this particular brew really strikes your flavour buds in a way that makes you want more. The only thing that's missing when you drink this beer is a summer patio and a warm gentle breeze. I recently had dinner at the Brew Table in Bells Corners and they were serving a craft beer from Broadhead called "Blueberry Blonde". The blueberry aroma and taste was subtle but very satisfying. I liked it so much that I had two pints with dinner.

  I searched the LCBO and Beer store but was unable to find it. Alas, here's the bad news. Broadhead is not brewing it anymore as it was a single production run. Hopefully they will come to their brewing senses and ferment a few more kegs for us to enjoy.

Cheers !!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Tales from the Big Red Dirt - Part 2

 You can't go on vacation to Prince Edward Island and tentatively try the local seafood so I decided to jump into the feast that PEI offers with both feet. There were samples of raw oysters, quahogs (clams) with chorizo sausage, lobster rolls, haddock and scallops. It was a seafood smorgasbord with a generous sampling of local craft beers brewed on PEI and they were exceptional.

Beach Chair Lager became a familiar friend when I had seafood. A nice light lager with a refreshing crispness that didn't overpower the seafood. I had this lager with steamed quahog clams and raw oysters.

The beer is produced by the PEI Brewing Company in Charlottetown PEI. Visit their website at

A dark reddish brown ale with good body, not too hoppy and dark flavours of caramel and some nuttiness at the end. Very drinkable while sitting on a deck watching the ocean waves roll onto the beach.

The beer is produced by Upstreet brewery in Charlottetown PEI. Visit their website at

Cheers !

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tales from the Big Red Dirt - Part 1

Edmundston .... I know that it's not in PEI and yes Margaret there are no vineyards in that part of New Brunswick but it is a two day drive and I'm not going to arrive in PEI all bleary eyed so that I could save on one night hotel. We decided to stay in this nice New Brunswick town and try a local restaurant recommended by the hotel staff. The waitress at the restaurant called Station 127 suggested I try her favorite local craft beer called Petit Sault Louis XVII Amber ale. Well it did not disappoint my tastebuds at all. In fact, it was really quite good. Refreshingly crisp, not to hoppy and had a nice long finish of toasty caramel.

It was a good way to start my PEI vacation. It was so good, I had two of them with my dinner. If you're every travelling to or through Edmundston NB give Les Brasseurs du Petit Sault a try. It's available in the New Brunswick Liquor stores.

Les Brasseurs du Petit Sault web site is

Next stop PEI


Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Mighty Zinfandel

   I know... A Sommelier is supposed to like all wines but I have to admit that I have particular fascination with California Zinfandel's. Zinfandel is dark in colour with rich aromas of blackberry, vanilla and other dark fruit with "jam like" flavours that pair well with most BBQ meats such as pork ribs, steak or flame broiled burgers. Zin wines have a unique colour, aroma and flavour that meld together to form what I think is a superior red wine. Zinfandel wines from Lodi, Paso Robles and Dry Creek regions of California produce some of the best fruit forward Zins that I have ever tasted.  Since Zinfandel is so closely related to it's Italian cousin Primitivo, I find myself indulging in wines from the Puglia region as well as California. Some Puglia wine producers are starting to label their wines as Zinfandel even though they are Primitivo based.

Here's some of my favourite Zinfandel wines

The Wanted Zin - Puglia, Italy IGT

A Primitivo wine aged in American oak from Italy being sold as a Zinfandel. This wine is not quite like the California Zin but it is quite good.

(LCBO 416487) - $14.10

Paso Creek Zinfandel - Paso Robles, California

One of my favourite Zins from California and it's reasonably priced. Fruit forward flavours of plum and mocha. It has a long lasting jammy finish that leaves you wanting more. A great wine for sipping or with a barbecued steak.

(LCBO 279810 - $16.75)

Victor Old Vine Zinfandel - Lodi, California

Another decently priced Zinfandel with grapes sourced from 100 year old vines which is supported by the dark and rich flavours of blueberry and vanilla.

(LCBO - 438531 - $17.25)

Friday, February 19, 2016

What kind of Port should I buy?

Port has been around for centuries and I noticed this year that there seems to be a rising interest in different types of port. The most common question I was asked over the Christmas season was "What is a good port to serve?" Well... They're all good. It's like asking, "What is a good wine to serve?" Do you like red, white, rose, sparkling or dessert? It all depends on your taste. So lets review the most common types of port so that you can try them and then decide for yourself.

So what is port?
Port is a wine that has a grape spirit or brandy added to fortify it which increases the alcohol level to between 19 and 22%. Fortifying port wine was started during the French-English wars when wine shipped from Portugal spoiled during the voyage to England. Spirit alcohol was added as a preservative.
Port is synonymous with Portugal (specifically the Douro region) although a few countries like Canada, Australia and California produce "port style" wines as well but not nearly as good as the port from the Duoro. Red ports are made primarily from the Tinto Roriz and Touriga Nacional grapes. White port is made from Viozinho, Gouveio, Malvasia, Rabigato grapes.

Here's a brief description of each port style with an example

No doubt that this is the absolute top tier of ports and the price point reflects the quality. The best grapes from the best vineyards go into this port which is only declared about 3 times per decade. A dark rich flavoured and unfiltered port (decanting required) that should be consumed within a few days after opening or it will start to go downhill. Vintage port if stored properly can be aged up to 50 years.

2003 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port (LCBO - 251967) $130.25

LBV or Late Bottle Vintage
A mainstream port that is filtered and ready to serve. It also has a much longer shelf life after opening so you can hold onto it for awhile without worrying about it going stale.

2009 Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port (LCBO - 46946) $16.00

Tawny and Old Tawny
Tawny port is a blend of Ruby port and White port. Old Tawny ports are much more complicated as the port is a careful blend of aged Tawny ports and then bottled as 10, 20 or 30 year Old Tawny ports.

Graham's 10 Year Old Tawny Port (LCBO 404012) $25.95

As the name indicates this port is ruby coloured. The youngest of ports with a more fruit forward flavour and a minimum 3 years in a cask before it can be bottled and sold.

Sandeman Ruby Port - (LCBO - 23366) $15.45 

White Port
A semi-sweet port. Unlike the dark fruit like fig and nutty flavours of an LBV or Vintage port, a white port has more citrus (orange) and honey flavours

Calem Lagrima White Port (LCBO - 912568) $16.95

To make it more confusing, there is also Colheita, Crusted and variations of Reserve ports which are less common but you may want to try them as well.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Guilty Pleasures

 Guilty pleasures.... You know, that song on the radio that you can't resist singing along to even though you wouldn't dare have it in your cellphone music selection on the off chance that someone might see it. That junk food that starts calling your name from the vending machine and you have to shoulder check to make sure no one sees you buying it. We all have a form of a guilty pleasure lurking in our subconscious but we have to keep it hidden so that it doesn't overwhelm our rational thinking.  
 For me it's a particular grape. As a Sommelier, we supposed to be as objective as possible when selecting wines. Always keeping an open mind, trying different wines and don't let personal preferences distort your judgement. That can be hard to do sometimes when the guilty pleasure demon starts to take control of your thought process. It happens to me when I'm looking for a wine, I inevitably start drifting towards the California section in search of a good Zinfandel. It's my guilty pleasure for sure.

2012 Brazin B(Old) Vine Zinfandel, Lodi California (LCBO 256750 - $19.95)

This Zinfandel comes in 2 versions, Lodi and Dry Creek valley. I tried the Lodi version which was loaded with aromas of spice, cedar and dark fruit. It's a dark red wine rich with flavours like cassis and dark stewed fruit. A long fruit flavour finish with some spice at the end.

A great wine to serve with BBQ steak or take it to a Christmas party.

Cheers !

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cartwright Springs Brewery

Cartwright Springs Brewery (  had their grand opening at the craft brewery just outside Pakenham Ontario and my only suggestion to improve their sales of craft beer is .... get a bigger parking lot because it looks like you're going to be busy.

  The turn out for the grand opening located at 239 Deer Run Road was huge and for good reason. Owner Andre Rieux and business partner Eduardo Guerro were pouring samples of great beers like their Northern IPA, Maple Porter, SMASH ale, Kolsch and a Bitter. The beer sample lineup in the tap room was 3 and 4 deep most of time and if you weren't sampling the ales inside, the BBQ outside was cooking up pork sandwiches to have with your beer. A picture perfect day to sample beer, snack, talk about beer and enjoy the weather. For those that like to explore, Andre offers a tour of the brewery, property and spring. 

  What makes this brewery so unique is the water used for making the beer is sourced from a artesian spring located on site.The spring water is so good that they have a tap for sampling the spring water. It's quite refreshing but I'll stick with the ales thanks. Cartwright Springs also makes a Maple Porter which uses local maple sap instead of water. This gives the porter a unique maple aroma but leaves the porter with it's strong (8.5% ABV) dark chocolate flavour and a bit of nuttiness at the end.

 So here a list of Cartwright Spring brews you might want to try.

Maple Porter a dark rich seasonal porter with significant kick to it. (8.5% ABV)

SMASH Ale which stands for "single malt and single hop" is a refreshingly crisp lighter ale. (5% ABV and 24 IBUs)

Norther IPA (my favourite) is a darker IPA with rich flavours and tropical notes. (5.6% ABV and 26 IBUs).

Kolsch ale is a lighter German style ale with a creamy finish (5% ABV and 20 IBUs).

Cartwright Springs offers a Bitter as well

Cheers !

Sunday, April 26, 2015

2015 Eat Drink Spring Wine and Food Festival

Wine, Craft Beer and food trucks within a few feet of each other. It's the perfect trifecta to enjoy a Friday night at the Eat Drink Spring wine and food festival held on April 17th and 18th 2015 at the EY Centre in Ottawa. Here's my picks for the best food, wine and beer selections at the show.

Food Truck winners
The Grilled Cheeserie food truck served up a "Lobster grilled cheese sandwich" that was so good, I went back for a second serving. Honourable mention goes to the the wood fired pizza oven truck (Flatbread Pizza) that made a three cheese pizza covered with arugula and balsamic syrup. Very good.

Craft Beer Winners
Perth Brewery crafted a "Maple Eh ale" with real maple syrup from local suppliers. If you love maple syrup then you really like this brew. It's a light amber coloured ale with a caramel aroma and lots of maple flavour. Honorable mention goes to the Broadhead Long Shot white wheat ale. A refreshing crisp wheat ale with some good citrus and coriander flavours.

... and some good wine
Since there were no vineyards represented at the show. I will list a couple of wines that I thought were impressive.

Guy Saget Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc - Loire France ($21.95 LCBO - 319657)

Good minerality in this French Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw and almost clear, the wine has all of the typical vegetal aromas associated with a Sauvignon Blanc but the citrus flavours of grapefruit really stand out. An easy drinking summer wine in your backyard.

Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Shiaz - Claire Valley Australia ($19.95 LCBO -925453)

Another impressive Shiraz from Australia. Dark fruit jam flavours with a good amount of black pepper at the the end of a long fruit finish. This wine would pair very well with BBQ pork ribs or braised beef short ribs. An excellent wine for taking to a BBQ.

Cheers !

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wine Lineage

 Since taking up my pursuit (aka obsession) with wine, I have been encouraging my daughters to try different wines from regions outside the mainstream selection of wines being offered by the LCBO. My mantra to them has always been, "Explore the world of wine. It's not all Chardonnay and Merlot out there." I think that they have embraced that ideology and selected some really good wines from time to time.
 Over the years my family has been doing blind tastings trying to stump each other with our wine selection. The wine bottle is hidden from view (usually in a paper bag) and a glass is poured. You have to guess the varietal of the grape, the country it came from and if you are really good... the region. Sometimes clues are given to help and we've all become quite good at guessing the type of grape and country.

So without further delay, here are my daughters excellent picks for this week. Well done girls!

Frisky Zebras Sauvignon Blanc - South Africa

An interesting Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa that doesn't have the same acidity or crispness that you would expect. The wine lends itself to a softer version of a Sauvignon Blanc with all the usual pear, stone fruit and citrus flavours associated with this grape. It has a nice citrus and honey flavour with a medium finish.
Price under $10 at the LCBO (237685)
This wine would pair well with seafood tacos or a summer salad while listening to Rock Lobster by the B-52s

2011 Seven Falls Cabernet Sauvignon - Wahluke Slope, Washington State

Wahluke slope is located in the Columbia Valley region of Washington state. Seven Falls is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon (87%) with 10% Syrah and 3% Merlot added and aged half and half in new and old oak for 18 months. It's a bold dark red wine with an almost opaque colour. This Cabernet Sauvignon has firm aromas of cherry, mocha and some menthol. Rich flavours of dark fruit and cherries with some black pepper at the end yield a rich texture and a long dark fruit finish.
Price under $20 at the LCBO Vintages (360222)
This wine would pair nicely with BBQ steak or ribs while listening to the greatest hits of The Band