Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Open That Bottle Night 2007

Saturday, February 25th, it was time for the annual tradition – OTBN. We each chose one because, hey, fair’s fair. Right? To our amazement, Susan chose white and Frank picked a red. Usually there’s no question it would have been the other way round, but something about the spirit of the event added a new dimension.

Susan’s Pick:
Muscat Ottonel 2004 (Hillside Estate Reserve Series)

I remember this being one of the first vintages we shared at the beginning of our true romance with wine. Sure, we already enjoyed wine and had learned a fair amount about it, but this was love.

We’d just spent a spur-of-the-moment, leisurely afternoon touring some of our local Fraser Valley vineyards and came across a VQA wine store. We needed something to go with dinner anyway, and there was a tasting happening. No brainer – we stopped in. Neither of us recall the first two wines, but when we took a sip of the Muscat Ottonel, our eyes opened wide. We barely said anything to each other – at that point our wine vocabulary was still somewhat limited. We bought half a case that day, and although the vintage we had on Saturday was a few years younger, it still carried memories of autumn sunshine and the beginning of a new relationship with wine.

Tasting Notes: Not just green apples but lusciously crisp, shiny green Granny Smith Apples here. A touch of citrus as the evening progressed. Although neither of us recall it being quite this acidic, it would go with the summer salads that are about ready to make a regular appearance as we move towards longer, sun-drenched days.

Frank’s Pick:
Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2003
(Domaine des Relagnes)

This was the oldest Chateauneuf-du-Pape currently in the wine cellar. At first, I wasn’t sure exactly which store I’d discovered it in, but once I realized it was from Marquis Wine Cellars, it seemed right for OTBN.

We’ve both spent more hours than perhaps we should admit to in Marquis, checking over the selection of wines you just can’t get anywhere else in Vancouver. This was where I first found the Condrieus that regularly take up space in the cellar, and where we were introduced to Seppelt’s Muscat – unfortunately no longer in stock – that came with the owner’s personal guarantee that if you didn’t like it, he’d give you your money back. Needless to say, we never requested a refund.

Tasting Notes: And now for something completely different, we both agreed this wine really is a cowboy in a tuxedo. Aromatic and full of old leather, dirt, and barnyard. Mushroom plus a hint of truffles came out later. The finish seems to go on as long as a prairie sunset.

We hope you enjoyed your 2007 Open That Bottle Night as much as we did. And we'd love to hear your stories.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ozone For Your Health

Apparently the new wave in wine preservation has a name – and that name is ozone. Yup, the same stuff that keeps getting holes in it out there in the atmosphere could not only reduce the migraines and asthma some people experience from drinking wine but could actually super-charge wine’s antioxidant powers – like four times the antioxidant content of non-ozoned wines.

Researchers from the Technical University of Cartagena in Spain claim exposing grapes to ozone was 90% as effective as sulphur-dioxide in preventing decay and contained none of the side effects. So how to you say: win-win.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for February 24, 2007

I was in love with a beautiful blonde once. She drove me to drink; that’s the one thing I’m indebted to her for.
W C Fields in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

Friday, February 23, 2007

Olé: Spanish Wines Explained

I was reviewing the text for my WSET today – again. That exam is coming up way too quickly. Spain was the area I chose for this study session which lead, naturally, to Tempranillo.

However, it seems the Spaniards cannot quite agree on the varietal names for their grapes – giving no end of aggravation to wine students everywhere. Tempranillo actually has many monikers depending on the region. Riberia del Duero calls it Tinto Fino, in Valdepenas it becomes Cencibel. It also goes under the guise of Tinto del Pais, Tinto de Toro, Tinto de Madrid, and probably a few I haven’t found yet.

I must agree though that with some of the young wines I’ve tasted from Spain, Tinto de Toro (literally translated as grape of the bull) is quite the accurate descriptor. Big, black grapes made into big, tough wines with lots of tannins. (Yes, it’s no surprise Susan loves their flamboyant, in your face nature.)

So while I was trying to put all these names in their right DOCs, I discovered a great website which lists the grapes, all their other names, and even includes a pronunciation guide. The only problem is I’ve found there are even more Spanish grape varietals than I was aware of.

Oh well, more time with Oz Clarke’s Encyclopedia of Grapes. I’ll probably have to open a bottle of something with Tempranillo in it – no matter what name they’ve decided to bottle it under – just to aid in sorting it all out.

Susan’s Note:

Now why was research never this much fun in school? So here’s some extra trivia for the day.

Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word “temprano” meaning “early” – a reference to its characteristic of ripening earlier than many other varietals.

According to Wikipedia, as well as being the grape varietal, Tinto is also:
- An area of Honduras sometimes counted as part of the Mosquito Coast
- A fictional country in the computer game series Suikoden
- The name of the highest hill in southern Scotland
- A river in southwest Andalusia, Spain

So now you know. And now it’s definitely time to open a bottle of something with Tempranillo inside it.

Catavino is an independent online informational resource dedicated to Spanish and Portuguese wines of the Iberian Peninsula. Check it out for yourself at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for February 20, 2007

Wine from long habit has become indispensable for my health, however I have lived temperately. I double the doctor’s recommendation of a glass and a half of wine a day and even treble it with a friend.
Thomas Jefferson

Monday, February 19, 2007

Open That Bottle Night 2007

Come on now, ’fes up. You’ve got a bottle (or two) of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion. You know, the one with memories. The one that makes you think of your best friend or that first trip to Napa or your parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Maybe it’s the Louise Latoure that made you realize you actually do like Pinot Noir or the Veuve Clicquot Champagne that went so perfectly with oysters.

Whatever your special wine is, you’ve probably been saving it a long time.

Well save no longer, because this Saturday, February 24th,it’s time for the ninth annual Open That Bottle Night. This great tradition started on the last Saturday of February, 2000, when Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal, suggested readers should crack open a bottle of symbolically significant wine and email them the ensuing story of the event. From a 1986 Lafite with pizza to a treasured 1916 Zinfandel from an Italian Swiss Colony, from a research station in the Antarctic to the house just down the street, stories poured in from around the world.

Today OTBN has become a global celebration. The evening is not nearly so much about the wine itself as about fond memories, great friends, and celebrating life everyday. We haven’t decided what wine we’ll be drinking, but you can be sure there will be at least one less bottle in the cellar and one more memory in our hearts by the end of the evening.

And if you feel so moved, share your story with us. We'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for February 18, 2007

With Frank now back from the US of A, it seemed appropriate to share a quote from one of our neighbour's presidents. Alas, neither of us know which wine is Jefferson was savouring at the time he said this.
By making this wine vine known to the public, I have rendered my country as great a service as if I had enabled it to pay back the national debt.
Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 16, 2007

Adventures in Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands Wines

So what’s wrong with this picture? Between business meetings, Frank is “doing New Orleans” – street musicians, the Blue Train, Cajun cuisine, deciding which two bottles of wine to bring home duty free. It’s raining here in Vancouver. And he still won’t tell me which two wines he’s bringing home. Hmmm. I need some consolation.

Thankfully, there’s a BC Wine Appreciation Society (BCWAS) wine tasting and a couple of the vintages aren’t available for love nor money even at the winery – certainly not in New Orleans. Tonight’s vintages are all wines from British Columbia’s emerging wine production area of Vancouver Island – a region neither of us have had much opportunity to explore. I grab a cab – the four-wheeled kind – and head downtown.

Here they are in the order we sipped them.

#1: Blue Grouse Vineyards’ 2005 Pinot Gris ($20)
Made from 100% estate grown grapes, this wine is crisp, refreshing, and considered the vineyard’s signature wine. Medium finish and would go great with fish or for sipping.

#2: Morning Bay Vineyards’ 2004 Riesling ($16)
This Riesling is produced using grapes from some of the oldest vinifera vines in Canada – the Inkameep Vineyards in Osoyoos. Classically Alsace in style, this wine is bone dry, angular, and has a long finish. Lots of petrol and minerality – in other words quite yummy as most of us at the table agreed.

#3: Blue Grouse Vineyards’2004 Ortega ($15)
A couple of my tablemates had never heard of the Ortega grape but, like me, were delighted by its floral nose and hints of summer fruit – think apricot and peach here. However this was definitely one I’d need Frank’s expertise for a food pairing suggestion. Good for sipping? You bet – especially at the price.

#4: Morning Bay Vineyards’ 2005 Pinot Gris ($18)
Barrel aged on new oak for a month, this wine is unabashedly unusual in its “bold, expressive style.” A bit toasty on the nose and with some subtle coffee overtone, there was a surprising fruitiness on the palette. Okay, so I’d expected to hate it because I’m not a fan of oak, but it somehow brought out a richness and depth I wasn’t expecting. Perhaps I should have known since it was from Black Sage Bench fruit.

#5: Winchester Cellars’ 2005 Chardonnay ($22)
Frank missed out on this one – it was a special treat for members of BCWAS and is no longer available. Big bodied, dense, and buttery, this Chardonnay was aged in French oak and has a rich, velvety texture. Classic styling and elegantly long finish.

And now we get to my favourite part of the evening – the reds.

#6: Saturna Island Vineyards’ 2004 Pinot Noir ($16)
A true summertime patio sipper, this wine is light and makes me think I’ve fallen face-first into a bucket of strawberries and raspberries. If I make the time to wipe off the red juice running down my cheek, there’s also a hint of spice and green tea. Some people smelled hints of beetroot and rhubarb, but being a fan of neither one, I just let the berry flavours wander across my taste buds.

#7: Blue Grouse Vineyards’2003 Pinot Noir ($22)
Fuller and darker, this Pinot Noir was the result of an unusually hot year. Distinctively New World in style, it exhibits a smooth, round texture. Lots of cherry cough drops and strawberry penny candy – okay maybe today that would more accurately be strawberry dime candy but you get the taste.

#8: Winchester Cellars’ 2004 Pinot Noir ($29)
My favourite because of its full, smooth, roundness and body, this wine spent 15 months in French oak. Black cherry with a hint of coffee, I’m instantly thinking barbequed salmon and intense conversations to match the length of the finish. Another gem not available – not that I’m gloating…much.

#9: Morning Bay Vineyards’ 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon ($22.50)
A silky lady in a velvet gown, this wine is pucker-power dry with lots of tannins – in other words, Frank would love the balance but roll his eyes at the tannins. Blackberry, blueberry, and chocolate with a hint of sagebrush and dusty hills – it’s all about food with this wine. Should improve even more with age.

#10: Morning Bay Vineyards’ 2003 Reserve Merlot ($27)
Barrel aged for over two years, this Merlot morphs from hints of plums through vanilla and truffles to a lingering chocolate finish. Great example of just how far New World Merlot has come. Only 120 cases made, if you weren’t there, you missed out.

The Links You Need:

BC Wine Appreciation Society:

Morning Bay Vineyard & Estate Winery:
Blue Grouse Vineyards and Winery:
Saturna Island Family Estate Winery:
Winchester Cellars:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for February 15, 2007

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive, well preserved body. Rather the goal should be to skid in sideways at full speed – chilled wine in one hand, chocolate in the other - totally worn out, body thoroughly used up, and screaming, “WOO HOO! What a Ride!”
What more can we say?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for February 14, 2007

On February 14th, what could be better than Champagne to toast the ones we love? And who better to speak to the delights of bubbly than the Grand Lady of Champagne herself, Lily Bollinger. Lily was once asked, “When do you drink champagne?” Here’s her reply.
I only drink champagne when I’m happy… and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.
Happy Valentines Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Weekends With Jancis

Jancis has taken over my weekends, my life, and most of the living room. I cannot move in the apartment with out her presence demanding my attention. When I sit on the couch, she is there. She drapes herself over the coffee table. I often have to step over her because she is sprawling across the floor. The woman consumes every spare moment I have. Sometimes I want to run out of the room screaming. Sometimes is all just too much.

Okay, I’m indulging in a bit of tongue-in-cheek. My WSET advanced exam is coming up far too quickly. Where have 22 weeks and a couple of hundred wines gone? Jancis Robinson wrote the definitive opus – The Oxford Companion to Wine – all six pounds off it. This tome has become a fixture on the coffee table. What space it does not take up is shared by Jancis’ World Atlas of Wine – which leaves no room for Vines and Grapes, her other essential reference work. This volume shares the floor with Jancis’ Wine Course.

Yes, I do have a few other references books – you know, like a hundred or so – Oz Clarke’s Wine Atlas as well as his Australian Wine Companion, Andre Domine’s massive Wine, books on champagne, on Burgundy, even a few on things like beer, cheeses, or corks.

But The Oxford Companion to Wines is the reference book, the one that has all the info you need to know to pass the WSET – as well as some things you never even imagined you need to know. It’s also required reading for the two-year WSET Diploma course that will start for me in a month or so. Two more years of daily – sometimes many times an hour – of following one reference to another.

I guess I have to accept Jancis has moved in for a few years – more likely for the rest of my life. Stay tuned to see how the relationship will hold out.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Vintage Haiku

It's true - sometimes we discover things in our inboxes and have absolutely no idea where they came from. Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're just pure fun. Like these Vintage Haikus we thought were worth sharing.Enjoy.

Bridlewood Estate Reserve Shiraz 2002 (California)
A bit new age-y:
Fruity adult lollipop
In a catcher’s mitt.

Molly Dooker ‘The Boxer’ Shiraz 2005 (Australia)

A laughing monster
Rip roaring fat and muscle
Hundred pound baby

Gristina Merlot 2000 (Long Island)
A sweet, windswept thing.
Long Island October chill
Route for the home team.

Vale Da Torre 2004 (Portugal)
Wine from Portugal
Is a unique animal.
This one barks a bit

McPherson Murray Darling Merlot 2003 (Australia)
Fills the mouth quickly
And feels healthy going down:
Leisure Set sports drink.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day

I have enjoyed great health at a great age because every day since I can remember, I have consumed a bottle of wine - except when I have not felt well. Then I have consumed two bottles.
Bishop of Seville

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for February 8, 2007

If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life.
Alexander Fleming

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for February 7, 2007

Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for February 5, 2007

Whiskey is a slap on the back, and champagne’s a heavy mist before my eyes.
Jimmy Stewart from the movie The Philadelphia Story

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day

What It's All About

Great wine has that marvelous quality of immediately establishing communication between those who are drinking it. Tasting it at table should not be a solitary activity and fine wine should not be drunk without comment. There are few pleasures which loosen the tongue as much as that of sharing wine, glass in hand. In essence it is easy to describe what one senses provided one has made a sufficient effort to notice it. What is clearly perceived can be clearly expressed.
Emile Peynaud from The Taste of Wine.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Drink Wine, Get Rich

Here’s a gem we hope you’ll love as much as we did. A recent study by the Reason Foundation reveals the astonishing fact that people who drink earn more money than those poor souls who don’t. Between 10% and 14% more to be precise. Better yet, social drinkers typically have even higher incomes than people who stay home when they indulge.

According to the study, sipping at a pub or bar enhances your “social capital” which increases your potential of landing a better than average job. So how’s this quoted directly from the authors? “According to our hypothesis, drinking and socializing is a potentially productive investment that positively influences future earnings.” Right on.

And guess what guys, us women increase our odds even more than you – among full-time workers, men who drink earn 19% above their tee-totaling counterparts, women earn an additional 23%.

So cheers to the folks who just gave us yet another great “Reason” to pop a cork. Thanks boys and here’s to getting rich.

PS: The entire study, Why Drinkers Earn More Money Than Nondrinkers, can be found online at

Frank’s Note:

Not only richer but sexier too. Checkout and go to January 22, 2007. Then as Alder suggests, “Now go out there and be sexy!”