Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ramblings Around Riesling

It’s the second day of the Playhouse Wine Festival here in Vancouver. Four days of wine tastings, seminars, and chatting with other people in the wine industry. Now only one year shy of its third decade anniversary, this year’s annual extravaganza features 1,550 wines from 180 wineries in 17 countries. It’s going to be a totally delicious, decadent challenge to keep up.

We’re just back from a Riesling tasting – Riesling being the featured grape for the 2007 Festival. More complete notes will follow later, but here are a couple of decidedly non-vintage, though utterly intriguing, stories you probably won’t hear often.

A spontaneous round of applause went to the speaker from Maximin Grunhauser for his enchanting, almost whimsical account of the business challenges faced by medieval monks who originally planted the estate in 966AD. At that time, each monk was given a daily allowance of wine as a form of “payment” for their work in the vineyard. Considered a fair price, each brother was entitled to three litres of wine a day. Only one full meal, but three litres of wine – 21st Century diet divas take note, there are wonderful things to be said about the nutritional values of wine.

Then came a couple of years of bad harvest. Since large amounts of the monastery’s production often remained at home, the abbot of the day decided to reduce the allotment to a mere two litres per day. Monks began falling ill, languishing in their cells, and failing to attend prayers or mass. In despair, the abbot called in a physician who is reputed to have said, “Abbot, you may be a man of God, but you are not a man of business. You have to fill the cask or it will rot and the stomachs of the monk are no longer full, thus they are ailing from rotten stomachs.” The abbot in his wisdom, immediately increased the daily allowance back to three litres in order it should not rot the brothers' insides, and soon the monks were, once again, filling the church with their prayers and their voices raised in song. Yes, god works in mysterious ways.

While most wine aficionados know Wolf, founder of the acclaimed Wolf Blass Winery, was born in East Germany, worked in the European wine industry for 13 years before immigrating to Australia’s Barossa Valley in 1961, and has long been considered a leader among the new generation of Australian winemakers, here’s lesser known peek at the face behind the label. According Scott (who’s last name we unfortunately both missed) tonight’s presenter from the winery, if you were to ask Wolf to name his three greatest passions in life, the answer would be: fast women, slow racehorses, and great Riesling. Okay, so we don’t get the slow race horses either, but we can certainly agree on the last comment.

The taste of the Rieslings from France through Germany and Austria, across to North America, and right on over the ocean to the Land of Oz is still lingering on our taste buds. Here’s to the King of Grapes.

Oz Meet Mosel Mogel

Wait a minute. A Down Under winemaker showing off a bottle of German Riesling and a Mosel Mogul with big, fat Aussie Cab in hand? In the gregarious spirit of Old World meets New, award-winning winemakers Stuart Blackwell (left) and Ernst Loosen (right) swap bottles to give us journalistic types a stellar photo op.

The event was an LCB tasting of Dr L Riesling from Dr Loosen Vineyards and two offerings from Australia’s Barossa – Gamekeeper’s Reserve and Faith Shiraz by St Hallett Wines. Food and laughter flowed freely, and it was soon apparent the two are actually good chums – or should that be mates?

Most of us began with the Dr L Riesling, a delicate and fruity example of why many wine aficionados consider this grape a much under-rated King of the Vines. Ernst punctuated his commentary with witty, often charmingly irreverent anecdotes about the history of Mosel wines, the intervention of the Catholic Church in winemaking during the Middle Ages, and how, on a recent sales trip to India, people were astonished to learn there are just 500 residents in the village by his vineyard – “why, that’s how many we have in our corner yard.”

Starting with a cheery “G’day,” Stuart took us on a quick tour of the vineyard courtesy of PowerPoint. Because Barossa has never been plagued by Phylloxera, many of the local vines boast pedigrees going back more than a century. To prove it,Stuart produced a shot of a 126-year-old-vine with a “really big, beautiful butt” that's still producing enviable quantities of grapes year after year. Whoa – that’s one big mama of a vine.

The Gamekeeper’s Reserve – a blend of Shiraz, Grenache, and just a touch of Touriga Nacional for a hint of rose petals – is a steal at $14. Sure it’s a perfect pizza wine, but all agreed it had plenty of robustness to carry off a heartier barbeque pairing as well. Still, my favourite of the three had to be the Faith Shiraz – okay, so Frank could have predicted that. It slid across my tongue, rich and creamy, lingering like a satin bathrobe on a model’s shoulders. And yes, if Frank can ever get the lipstick off the Riedel, there’s now a bottle in the wine cellar for a second, at home sampling.

PS: A big Thank You! goes to Jodi Rogers, product knowledge and event coordinator from the Cambie Street LCB store, for allowing us to use her cheeky photo of Stuart Blackwell and Ernst Loosen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Riedel and Lipstick or Unlucky Pairings

Remember the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you made a really bad choice in life? Something you knew, as you where doing it, would all go bad?

To my deep regret, after lots of pleading and begging, I let the young gentlemen from our last post borrow a pair of Riedel glasses to aid in his anticipated romantic liaison. Bad move – really, really bad move on my part. Just how bad it was going to get, I had no idea. But I had that sinking feeling as I agreed to lend them out.

Sunday morning I got a phone call asking where he could buy some of these wonderful glasses – he hadn’t been able to find any quite the same thing at the nearby dollar store. Having at that point only downed one cup of coffee and it still being rather early in the day, I didn’t pick up on the subtle messages being sent. I gave him the names of a few shops where he could find said glasses. Before I could ask him how the wine pairing with the object of his amorous desire went, the phone went dead.

Half way through my second cup of coffee, a voice mail arrived. Something was wrong with the glasses. I knew it would all become frighteningly self-evident soon. I was thinking of all the evil, nasty jobs I could give this guy when he next came onto my crew as a movie greensman. Digging ditches in a filthy, smelly swamp was the first thought that came to mind. I’ll forego mentioning some of the ones that came later.

A few hours later, the phone rang. Would I be home for a while? The young man wanted to return my wine glasses and two-stage corkscrew. All my evil thoughts dissipated. How little I knew.

He arrived carrying a Riedel box containing a brand new glass. I took one glance at the other glass and my worst fears were realized. Bright red lipstick – the brightest red lipstick I’ve ever seen. Now I know lipstick on crystal is hard to remove without using some form of nasty cleaning stuff, but this lipstick must be part Crazy Glue. It will just not come off.

His wallet – as he showed me – was empty. He’d already cashed in his beer cans, gathered up all his spare change, and borrowed some money from his mom to avoid the wrath he knew was coming his way. After beating on his head and shoulders for a while, he agreed another glass would becoming my way soon – not in the next ten minutes like I wanted, but by the end of the week. My visions of sending him into swamps became more focused.

Please, if there is any one who can tell me how to get the lipstick off, I would be grateful. If it involves a dishwasher, I’m out of luck as I am the dishwasher here. Meanwhile the red-rimmed glass sits on the counter.

Susan’s Note:

Okay, so is this where I get to say “I told you so”? No, of course not! When Frank announced he was going to actually loan out prized glasses, I merely made a mild mannered comment. “Oh, it rather surprises me that you’d agree.” What self-control – on my part, not his. He is, after all, the one who agreed.

Now you have to understand Frank’s hatred of lipstick is… intense. Lipstick of any colour has been know to send him into a tirade usually prefaced by something along the lines of “Don’t they know it’s whale blubber they’re putting on my glasses?” Red lipstick? You get the picture.

For now, I’ll content myself to surreptitiously smiling every time I see the red-rimmed glass perched regally on the counter. Mind you, I do have a interior designer friend who is well known for her love of using everyday objects to create unique, artsy accent pieces like lampshades or sculptured plant pots or picture frames. Perhaps I’ll pop by with some old lipstick tubes. After all, Frank’s birthday is just around the corner.

Riedel is found at

Monday, March 26, 2007

Romance and Wine or Lucky Pairings

Spring must be lurking around the corner, hidden away in the rainy Vancouver weather. For our friends in Toronto, the daffodils are up and the magnolias are starting to bloom – ignore the rain comment.

It is Friday and I’ve already received a couple of interesting phone calls for help with food and wine pairing. Perhaps I should say hopeful pairings of another sort.

First, a young gentleman in his early twenties who works with me occasionally called with, what for him, was an unusual request. “I need the name of a French wine – preferably with a cork and some sort of castle on it.” Before I could get over the idea that I may have finally weaned him off of his Molson’s, hundreds of bottles that could work for him were already flashing through my mind. I needed more information.

Apparently he was having a young lady over for dinner. Ah ha, the motives quickly became more apparent. His budget – $20 or $30 max but the wine had to be really good. The young lady in question must be quite something. “Okay, why a castle on the bottle, and why does it have to have a cork? And does the young lady like red or white wine?”

“Red or white? Oh shit. I’ll get back to you.” Click.

I was still processing that information as the phone rang again. Busy morning. This call was from a very interesting woman friend in her late forties. “I’m having someone over for dinner. I need to have a really good wine.”

“What food are you pairing with?” A simple question, or so I thought.

“I want a wine for pairing with me. I’m not worried about the food.”

Right. Now I had the facts straight, I suggested an Amarone and – knowing of her extensive music selection – some smoky jazz from Billie Holiday or Dinah Washington. Yes, I assured her, two bottles would be enough. In fact, I was pretty confident that in her current frame of mind two bottles would be more than enough.

Within minutes, the phone rang again. The young man was back on the phone. “My sister says she likes a white wine – one from New Zealand she thinks.” All right, the object of his affections is probably drinking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Taking a step up, Chateau Sancerre sprang to mind. Same grape but it does have a castle on the label and a cork.

I asked him why the castle and the cork? “I want to look cool, and nothing out of a box like other guys. By the way, can I borrow a corkscrew and a couple of those nice glasses you have?” The idea of my Riedel glasses leaving the house with this guy in charge of them for a few days did not sit well at all. The corkscrew – maybe. The glasses – no way. After all, you can only do so much to aid in the cause of love and romance.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Required Reading

My bank account, the wine cellar, and I sat down this afternoon and took a long look at the required and suggested reading lists for my WSET Diploma and CSW from the Society of Wine Educators. I plan to write the CSW at the Wine Educators conference in Monterey this June and have just started working on my WSET Diploma.

After much crosschecking and taking inventory of books already in my possession, the bank account went into total shock. Its color went from black to red, and its positive frame of mind suddenly turned rather negative.

Of course, then the wine cellar had to be informed that its addictive preference for Premier Crus Chablis, Amarone, Gaja, and Hugel Rieslings is about to be put in check. It didn’t want to hear about Yellow Tail at all. When informed there would be no more Veuve Clicquot, its temperature went from 48 degrees to 80 in about five seconds. “There are other sparking wines made in France,” I mentioned, which somewhat pacified the wine cellar as long as we could agree they would all be method classique and not something out of a tank. “Asti is made in the cuvee close method,” I told it. Since the cellar has not been taking any wine courses, it seemed fine with that.

On a slightly more serious note, though, we will be doing reviews on some of the books required for the various certifications, and our crack designer, Karin, will be putting this info up on the blog along with where to get them. I’d love to hear from any students about what books you found most beneficial and any others you discovered that aren’t on these lists. A favourite of mine is Jamie Goode’s The Science of Wine. Also, if you find some useful websites, feel free to send them along.

As I take another look at the reading list for the Masters of Wine, I try not to let either the bank account or the wine cellar see how lengthy it actually is. I ever get that far, I think I’ll have to marry someone who owns a bookshop.

Society Of Wine Educators:
Court Of Master Sommeliers:
International Sommelier Guild:
Masters Of Wine:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Canadian Wines, VQA, and Other Dark Secrets

There is a dark little secret hiding on Canadian wine labels. It lurks, often in camouflage, waiting for the unwary. In most cases, no one ever notices. Another con perpetuated.

But let’s start at the beginning. In Canada, some wines are known as VQA wines – Vintners Quality Alliance. Theses wines are easily identified by a neck label or by boldly printed letters on the label. They are from either Ontario or British Columbia, and each province administers this program independently.

Ontario rules say a VQA wine must be made from 100% grapes grown in Ontario. Much like Germany, there are rules on minimum sugar levels at harvest for each variety, a restriction that is important for quality especially in a cool weather wine region. Each wine is blind tasted by a panel who determine whether or not the wine demonstrates sufficient varietal character and approve the label. If the board is not satisfied, they can refuse to grant VQA status.

The VQA designation is an appellation system as well. The label can say Ontario Wine or have one of the 12 Ontario regions listed. (Note: Ice wine from Ontario has some different rules but we’ll explore those at a later date.) So far so good, right? In Ontario, the label has to state winery, area, grape variety – hybrids are permitted here – producer, and alcohol content. No secrets here.

With five wine regions and over 140 wineries, the province of British Columbia has almost the same rules but it is voluntary to belong to the VQA. In this province, VQA must be made from 95% BC grapes, and if the bottle says “Estate” on the label, 95% of the grapes must come from the vineyard listed. So far so good, still all above board. Buy a VQA wine and you’re buying a Canadian wine.

Now sometimes you’ll see a bottle of Canadian wine without the VQA label. Many very small producers don’t belong to the VQA program. Since they sell out their entire product every year, they aren’t concerned with having the VQA label and all the government paper work and hassle that goes with it. They simply list the wine region and grape variety on the label, and that’s what’s in the bottle. Once again, not a problem. You know what you’re buying.

So here’s where things get shady. There’s one more designation you’ll find on Canadian wine labels: Cellared in Canada. So if it’s cellared in Canada, it’s a Canadian wine right?

Sorry, wrong. That’s the dirty little secret being perpetuated on an unsuspecting public. Cellared in Canada wines could have very few Canadian-grown grapes in the bottle. In fact, they could have none at all. The only thing you know for sure is that the wine you’re holding in your hand was actually put into the bottle somewhere in Canada. The contents could be Aussie bulk wine, sell offs from southern France, tankers of grapes shipped up from Washington State or California. No wonder some Canadian Cabs taste like they’ve been grown in warm climates. That Merlot, if it is all Merlot, could come from anywhere – literally – in the world.

Even more astonishing, the various liquor control boards willingly contribute to this confusion by placing Cellared in Canada wines on the same shelves as VQA wines. In the three BC government liquor stores we checked, the aisles marked as VQA wines had more Cellared in Canada wines than VQA – by a factor of about three to one. To see what you are actually buying, you have to read the very, very small print. One producer even stooped to the tactic of embossing the miniscule font in a shiny, reflective gold material – unless you were actively looking for it, the Cellared in Canada notation simply looked like part of the graphic design.

Could it be that the government is more concerned with selling big companies wines – wines that clearly dominate on the shelves – than in helping the Canadian wine industry? We’ve talked to many small wineries who can’t get shelf space because their production is considered too small. Come on, LCB and LCBO. Stop misleading the consumer with your placement of Cellared in Canada wines. Try taking some of the conglomerate wines off the shelf and make way for a few of the outstanding Canadian wines this country produces. If we want an Aussie Shiraz or a Napa Valley Cab, we’ll walk to the appropriate aisle.


Here are two final bits of information to get you thinking.
Both BC and Ontario sell more Cellared in Canada wines than VQA.
Air Canada, our national airline, serves Cellared in Canada wines on their flights.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Monday, March 19, 2007

Brave New World Meets Wine

So when does a wine stop being a wine and becomes an engineered concoction?

Some of the world’s largest foods giants are now tackling this thorny question. And hold onto your wine glass, because it’s a question that may be puzzling wine lovers for years to come.

It’s called Nano-Engineered Wines. The premise is that you buy a liquid at the corner grocery store, then in the comfort of your own home, you nuke it in a correctly tuned microwave transmitter. In minutes, you can be sipping a glass of “wine” fully customized to your personal taste buds.

Apparently, microwaves activate microscopic nano capsules with an ability to convert the liquid into whatever wine tickles your fancy at the moment. Feel like a New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc? Just program your trusty transmitter and voilia – cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush.

Prefer something a little more robust – say a big, bold Aussie Shiraz? Just dial in smoke and spice, maybe a little leather, and zap, it’s ready to go. If you want to be really different, how about making said Shiraz white? No problem. It’s all in the tuning of the microwaves. In fact, you’ll apparently even be able to dial or tune in (not quite sure what the terminology would have to be) the alcohol level. A Napa Cab at 7% perhaps?

And here’s another twist. Legions of unemployed wine critics – every wine would be a hundred points after all. Perhaps they would have to be more involved telling you how to dial up something like a Grand Cru Chablis.

Could this Orwellian scenario actually be the future of viniculture? No, somehow we can’t see this drink really being called wine because the definition of wines is fermented grape juice. The only possible good thing to come of it would be the death of the points system at last. Which goes to show there is a silver lining to every cloud.

Now lest you think we are making this up, here are some links to the articles we saw. So weird it has to be true? You be the judge.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sparkling New Look

For those of you who have been following us for a while, we hope you’re enjoying our new look and the many additions to blanc-de-noir.

This is entirely due to the work of Karin Schmidlin from bluecreative. Karin has done wonders to improve the visual impact and feel of the blog and, as many of our readers have indicated, has made it a lot more user friendly.

I confess I know very little about the various computer languages, nor do I want to take time away from my wine studies to learn. My Mac and I get along quite well enough. Over the years, AutoCAD and I have also managed to develop a more or less working relationship for when I’m designing movie sets or landscaping projects.

Susan, on the other hand, can look at a computer or just walk by and it will stop working. I’ve seen her do things to her Mac that I wouldn’t have believed were possible. If the Internet crashes one day, it will probably be Susan’s fault.

So we both appreciate the creative inspiration Karin has already brought to blanc-de-noir and can’t wait to see the results of her future plans. Be sure to check out her website at And Karin, the Riesling is on its way with our thanks.

Susan’s Note:

And just wait till you see what else she’s got in store. Karin, our hats are off to you. Thank you for your artistic input and for continuing to hound us for images – which we’ll get to you this week. And I promise, cross my heart, your computer is safe - I’ll never, ever touch it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for March 16, 2007

What a marvelous sentiment. We raise our glasses to this man.
Writing in my sixty-fourth year, I can truthfully say that since I reached the age of discretion I have consistently drunk more than most people would say is good for me. Nor did I regret it. Wine has been for me a firm friend and a wise counselor. has shown me matters in their true perspective, and has, as though by the touch of a magic wand, reduced great disasters to small inconveniences. Wine has lit up for me the pages of literature and revealed in life romance lurking in the commonplace. Wine has made me bold but not foolish; has induced me to say silly things but not to do them.
Duff Cooper, Old Men Forget.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Surviving the WSET Exam

The exam is over. Done at last. It’s difficult right now to tell whether I’m experiencing pure relief at the thought I can actually sleep later than 6:00 am this Saturday morning without becoming overwhelmed by stabbing pangs of guilt or whether there is a vague sense of let down – have run on adrenaline and drive for so many weeks, it’s hard to let go.

I’m fairly sure I’ve passed, I hope I passed with distinction or at least with merit. But for now, it is all in the hands of some anonymous examiner in London who, hopefully, will love my answers to the essay questions. If only I knew where and to whom to send that good bottle of Riesling… no, no, just kidding. There is an eight-week wait for the results – a long, long wait.

Have the 35 weeks plus hours and hours of study been worthwhile in retrospect? The program certainly focused my previously scattered learning methods. The advanced level covers just about every wine region in the world. It was a constant reminder of just how little I really knew about wine – and how much more there will always be to know.

For me, the most valuable tool was the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting, an approach which practically and literally forces you into a more disciplined and thorough tasting technique.

I’ve met some nice people over the course of the three levels. It really helps to hear the comments and opinions other people have about the wines in front of you, the things one person may miss entirely. That was invaluable. Thank you to all my classmates from the last three levels for the time and notes shared.

What’s next? On to the Diploma Level in a week or two – just so much more to learn. Two years and many more wines to come. I will let you know how it progresses and would love to hear from anyone else taking the Diploma Level WSET – maybe an opportunity to compare notes and share knowledge?

For now, the books and notes in the living room, kitchen, and study have all been organized and put away – at least for a few days. Susan, I know I said I was going to take some time off – oh well, what can I say?
Diploma Guide:
Advanced Level Guide:

Susan’s note:

Actually, I’d have been astonished if you took an entire month off. I’m impressed it only took 24 hours before the call of a wine book proved utterly irresistible.

Yes, folks, Frank decided to do some “light reading” the night after he wrote the final, and what did he choose? You got it – a wine book.

However, I must also tell you of his remarkable restraint on Tuesday, when only one hour after turning in his examination paper, we ran into a casual acquaintance at the local pub. (Yes, of course we were celebrating!) “So what’s the difference between a Cab and a Shiraz?” she asked innocently.

Frank’s eyes widened only slightly, probably not enough that she’d actually notice. I didn’t hear the entire explanation – I had to turn away so as not to offend because I lack the self-control Frank has, and my eyes went very wide, very quickly. She’s a nice enough gal, but her timing was, shall we say, a bit awkward. Still, Frank handled it with aplomb – as always.

Soon now it will be time to embark on another round of studies. But this time, you can be sure I’ll be reminding Frank more frequently about his last instructor’s advice: you need to drink more red wine!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's D Day

6:30 am. Today is D Day, the day I sit the final exam for my Advanced WSET. I was wondering if like a hockey player before a big game, I would go unshaven today.

This evening will be the end of 22 weeks of intense study – 35 really, since I went straight from my Level Two into the Advanced Level.

Last chance to go over some areas this morning. It will not be possible to review it all today, so what areas shall it be? Ports, which I’m a little weak on, or back to the German wines laws? Actually, I can’t do the German wine law one more time – what will be will be when it comes to Germany. Stacks of tasting notes, books, classroom notes, and Jancis Robinson surround me. It will be a wonderful thing to get my living room back.

There is more than a little trepidation going on here I must admit. The essay questions are looming large. Four essays of four questions each. What will they be about? Italian wines I hope. Please, please be Italian wines, and I will be good for the rest of the year, I promise. One blind wine tasting. I am hoping for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – hope springs eternal I suppose. Multiple choice questions as well, testing trivia of wine areas around the world.

The coffee is ready and only a few hours left. Books cover the floor, the couch, the coffee table. All are screaming for attention. Off I go… except no Germany today.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Magnetic Millions

It was probably the strangest tasting Frank and I have ever attended. A room full of 50 wine aficionados, each one of us given ten wines, pen and paper, and crackers to cleanse the palate. Sounds normal enough. Then James Cluer gave us the tasting rules of the experiment that would form the basis of his Masters of Wine dissertation.

We had five minutes per pair to compare the ten wines in front of us. Are they the same wine? If so, stop here and relax while you watch the rest of the participants swirl, sniff, and consider. If not, the anticipated series of questions to answer. Not everyone has the same wines in front of them so even if I think my “C” and “D” wines are the same, Frank’s might not be. Spitting required – no swallowing allowed.

But here’s the real kicker – no speaking. Yikes. These folks are asking me to sip wine for half an hour and not talk about it? Somehow it just feels sacrilegious not discussing a good wine – or any wine for that matter. I confess that in my mind I named the brightly smiling, impeccably dressed women who wandered the aisles keeping a watchful eye on us tasters the “Spit Don’t Speak Brigade.”

Still, the event was fascinating and a whole lot of fun. And after we were done, we all made up for the half hour of non-talking. Theories ranged from “can someone with WSET training tell the difference in wines better than someone with no training” to “how much difference does it actually make in the taste of a wine if the vines are from one side of a vineyard as opposed to the other?” Someone even suggested all the pairs were, in fact, identical, and the study was simply to see how much the mere suggestion they might be different affected people’s response – do I smell an advertising ploy here?

Okay, so remember the “truth is stranger than fiction” cliché your mom always talked about? This evening proves mom was right. It was actually all about magnets. And if James has succeeded in proving magnets can affect the taste of wine for the better, he’s not only earned himself the coveted Masters of Wine certification, but he’s won a cool $1 million as well.

James was testing the controversial theory that by passing wine through a high-intensity magnetic field the small, hard tannins combine into larger, softer ones. The result is a smoother, softer beverage with more flavour, less bitterness, and a longer finish. And if it’s true, you too can achieve this remarkable transformation by adding a BevWizard to your accessories list.

BevWizard is a magnetic wine pourer marketed by Dr Pat Farrell, a medical doctor and himself a Master of Wine. According to Decanter, “US skeptic James Randi, whose Florida-based educational foundation is committed to providing reliable information about paranormal claims, is doubtful enough to offer a large cash prize to anyone who can prove the claims.” Yup, I'd say a million bucks would be classified as a large cash prize.

And here’s some more food for thought. Summerhill Winery in Kelowna has built an entire brand on what they say are the benefits of aging wines in a pyramid – better energy, better taste. “There is a definite and profound effect on liquids placed in sacred geometry,” says their website. Well, who’s to argue with the Egyptians anyway.

Did James do it? Are magnets about to change the way we enjoy wine? No one knows the final results of his study yet, but it seemed absolutely fitting it was on the day before Frank’s advanced level WSET exam we finally learned why we were sipping in silence back in January. Besides, think of all the at home research we could now do for ourselves. Ahhh, scientific method at it finest. In fact, I hear a bottle of Aramone calling right now.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wine Quote of the Day for March 7, 2007

Alonso of Aragon was wont to say in commendation of age, that age appears to be best in four things - old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.
Francis Bacon, 1624

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Countdown to Exam

Tonight was Frank’s final class before his WSET advanced level exam. Swirl, smell, sip, repeat. Six wines later, his instructor says, “you really need to drink more red wine.” Ah ha, some small measure of vindication for my love of in-your-face, tooth staining, bold, red tannins.

But how come my Math or Chemistry instructors never gave me this kind of direction? Did I miss something between the atomic weights of hydrogen and ununoctium, between differential calculus and the trigonometry of architecture? Maybe I should force myself to read the book filled with formulas for blending wines and equations for malolactic fermentation and other techno “stuff” that Frank can actually remember. Then again, maybe not. Think I’ll just stick to contributing to his studies by opening a few more bottles of reds we haven’t tried yet and pouring.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Of a Romantic Nature

A couple of weeks ago, we were at a wine tasting led by Sandra Oldfield, winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. As it often does, the subject of cork versus Stelvin (dare we actually be so crass as to refer to it as a screw cap?) was raised – and as it usually does, heated debate ensued. Finally one participant – a male – asked the burning question: But what about the romance of popping a cork? Sandra looked the man square in the eye, then slowly made eye contact with the rest of the women in the room. Here’s her reply:
I’ve always believed that if you need a cork for romance, you’re sitting at the table with the wrong man.

Every women present applauded.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Missing in Action?

I know Frank is still alive. At least, I’m pretty positive he is. We’ve even managed to have a few semi-conversations over the past few weeks – mostly punctuated by a look that’s a cross between shell shock and “oh my god, I can’t believe this is happening.”

The question is more, where is he? A couple of weeks ago he was in Spain. Prior to that, it was Germany, and now I think he’s somewhere in Greece – or was that the Land of Oz?

He’s also become obsessed with spirits – of the high alcohol kind rather than the mythic variety – and sometimes mumbles numbers like mantras. New oak, old oak, residual sugar, time in the barrel, cases produced, altitudes, acres cultivated – numbers spew from his mouth with but a few words of encouragement from me or anyone else for that matter. It’s probably a good thing he usually locks himself in the living room, because some folk’s sanity has come into question for less.

Now okay, I confess Frank isn’t actually in all those countries physically, but as his WSET exam gets closer –like 11 days away, although who’s counting – he might as well be. Every study session he focuses on a different area of the world, flipping back and forth between reference books at a speed that makes my head spin. I admit his “homework” often makes for some fascinating wine tastings and comparisons but pretty limited conversation. I’ve temporarily given up hope of prolonged philosophical discussions and resigned myself to two-hour dinners being a thing of the past. And lunch… well, who needs to eat when there’s Jancis Robinson to keep you company? (She does have a delightfully wicked sense of humour though.)

So if our postings get somewhat erratic over the next few weeks – please hang in there with us. And while Frank is still in shock over the fact that the past 22 week of this advanced level have flown by so fast, two hours ago he found out what’s involved in the diploma level. One hundred and four weeks plus days of exams. Think I’ll stick with helping out with the homework side of things.