Archive for November, 2016

November 25, 2016

Drinking Wine in London, A Lot of Champagne, Discovering Grillo

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich at dusk.  Familiar to scotch drinkers...

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich at dusk. Familiar to scotch drinkers…

A short vacation in London.


And a lot of good wine.

The beer wasn't too bad either.  Young's Winter Warmer.

The beer wasn’t too bad either. Young’s Winter Warmer.

A flat white mid morning

A flat white mid morning

I bought a bottle of “grower’s” champagne from a local Co-Op (high street grocer) which was palatable and pleasant and came through on my credit card statement at $28 Canadian.  Not sparkling, not Prosecco, not cremant de bourgogne/loire, whatever, not methode champenoise, actual champagne.  $28 for 750 ml.  (Now, not to get too excited; at the 02 arena they were selling individual 250 ml bottles of Moet for 25 pounds sterling, so about $40 or, translated to 750 ml, $120 Canadian.)


BA serves actual champagne in the lounge, if you’re flying on points.  Henriot Brut and Brut Rose.  Neither, to my mind, were that memorable but they do retail in Vancouver for, wait for it, $80.


On board the reconfigured 747 (I would love to have been on the new Airbus, but not in the off season) they had a choice of three and I drank two sensational glasses of, first, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle then Taittinger Brut Vintage 2006.  That Taittinger with its dry, nutty, spicy nose was the bomb.  I also sampled a most exquisite white, the A To Z Wineworks Riesling, 2015, from Oregon, which had the tart crispness of a Pink Lady apple with the honeyed finish of Rooibos tea.  And, shock of shocks, they had a CA Pinot, Sangiacomo 2013 from Sonoma, which somehow had all the lightness of raspberry with the layers of wood shavings and spice you’d not expect at 39,000 feet.


I also sampled a number of natural wines at Terroirs in Covent Garden, including a “too young” Gamay.  More on the natural wine issue in a separate post.


But the big find this trip was that many restaurants have started selling decent bottles of Sicilian Grillo by the glass.  Day was when you could get a very tasty Verdicchio or Gavi as a house wine, but no more.  Grillo, however, was hearty, herby, earthy and spoke of the seaside.  I really couldn’t get enough of it.  Dirt cheap too.

Lamb sirloin at Hix in Soho; a great reason for a few glasses of Medoc

Lamb sirloin at Hix in Soho; a great reason for a few glasses of Medoc

November 15, 2016

Blue Mountain Pinot Gris, 2015


Probably the best BM PG ever.  I don’t know what that means exactly.  I’ve always liked their PG, I buy at least six a year, I’ve never been wholesale disappointed, but it’s not bowl you over, ever.  Even the reserve, which (was it the 2012?) was stunning and impossible to find following release, is still in the end just an Okanagan PG.


However, the base model this year, the wild ferment, really brings the funkiness to the fore.  It catches you for a loop.  It actually pales in comparison to the Saturna (RIP) wild ferment Riesling, released at the end of the vineyard’s “first incarnation” but it’s still delicious, acidic, pear forward, sharp and a charmer with cheese.


Kudos to Blue Mountain for have a “free shipping” release at Les Amis de Fromage a few weeks ago.  Order your wine from the Okanagan, pick up for free in Vancouver.  Anyone else want to join the band wagon?  Hint hint La Frenz, Burrowing Owl, Culmina, Seven Stones…


Price: Astounding at $21.


Market Liquidity: Easy on the pocket book, golden on the palate.

November 13, 2016

Sherry. Lot’s of Sherry. And Lustau Amontillado Los Arcos Dry, in particular.


Sherry is my desert island wine.  I am baffled by the fear or reservation or misunderstanding or just plain dislike of fortified wine.  I would trade in my desert island book for an additional cask.  Sherry can earn plaudits of 95 points from the pointsters with nothing but raves, stars and medallions yet still languish on the wine store shelf.


I would ditch most of the heavy reds any day for a well stocked sherry bar.  You need, first, some Alvear in the house.  The medium is a must have for any vegetarian risotto, but particularly the first ladle in classic porcini after the Arborio has been sautéed.  But it’s nice too, even if when you sip it your friends ask if you have a tissue shoved up the sleeve of your cardigan.


bamboo-cocktail The dry Alvear Fino is something found more often in my fridge than eggs or butter.  One of the finest cocktails ever invented, the Bamboo (1902 I think, but I didn’t Google it), captures the versatility of sherry in a breath: it’s half sherry, half vermouth.  I make it with dry and a twist in the summer, with sweet and a dash of orange bitters in the winter.  Equal parts.  On ice.  Screw Manhattans.


Those two Alvear sherries, I should add, cost less than most BC blends.


Sherry is versatile, indispensable, incomprehensibly complex and nothing if not pleasurable.  You can even find it on one per cent of the finest wine lists (I write with some open hostility).


If you’re ever in London, there is a wine bar on Villiers St at Embankment tube in a lock of the Thames with water dripping off the bricks and candlelit tables where the wine is diverse and thoughtful but nothing beats the casks of sherry.  Glasses from the spigot.gordon-wine-bar-sherry-casks


The next best thing about Sherry is how you don’t need to sleep out five nights in front of the government liquor store (as recently happened with the rare whiskey release in Vancouver), or compete with the X7 driving hordes on the Bordeaux release, as happens annually, to get a rare bottle.  Sherry: It will be sitting there, waiting for you, beckoning you (probably dusty to boot).


Witness the Amontillado Los Arcos dry.  Where to begin?  This is nothing if not a Mary Berry British Bake Off Technical Challenge extraordinaire.  It’s basically a master class in dry sherry.  Inimitable and luscious and pure pleasure; room temperature, chilled, or on ice.


Sherry is so many things; rough and smooth, strong and hearty, unique and indescribable; one sip can be like Carol Channing singing then Neal Young singing then Lou Reed singing then the jarring Glass soundtrack of Koyaanisqatsi then the trance like repetition of Tubular Bells and finally just the Arvo Pärt ish minimalist note of hazelnut skin left on the tongue.  And sometimes it’s bad and boring and MMMBop, sweet and cloying, like a clown nose squeaker.  Still, more often than not, it’s an adventure.


Price: The Los Arcos can be found for around $30 in Vancouver.


Market Liquidity: Decanter magazine once voted the Los Arcos as one of the ten best in the world.  Who am I to disagree?

November 8, 2016

Culmina Decora, 2015


Wow.  I think you could line this up blind with any of the Alsace Rieslings available in BC and it would trump most.  Well, maybe not the Pierre Sparr, but still…


This sips cool, cold, crisp, with intense acidity but enticing layers of hearty orchard fruit along with the lightness of a butterfly garden, whiffs of blossoms across the tongue.  By which I mean both meaty and delicate.  It’s like spring in a bottle.


Most shocking of all is that we paired it (on a whim) with eggs (Martha Stewart’s baked squash, carrots, kale, with eggs and a cilantro dressing): eggs are notoriously wine un-friendly, and cilantro is no Alsatian amie, but by gosh it held up like the Cubs in the tenth.


Price: $21 from the winery. A steal by any measure (except, it seems, the hordes who pass on Riesling).


Market Liquidity: A taste of the good life.