Friday, July 27, 2007

Chablis, Romance, and Just Plain Fun: Weekend Wine Quizzes

The weather’s hot, the wine’s cool, and these two sites were just so much tongue-in-cheek fun we couldn’t resist. Sure, this is pure indulgence, but hey, sometimes we all need to just sit back and have a good laugh. And if the Chablis videos don’t get you doing exactly that, you definitely need to pour yourself a couple more glasses.


Test out your Chablis-savvy nature – from trendy to sophisticated. ’Fess up about how you’ll handle the waiter who spills the bisque on your lap or whether you’ll spill the beans when your best friend needs a shoulder to cry on, and this quick quiz will fill you in on your FC-quotient.

But it’s the three videos we found most fun. Sassy, silly, and guaranteed to bring a smile, we got the second and third installment through Watch out for the blond’s backhand.


Last month it was Soif de Coeurfind your soul mate by revealing the secret number under the label. This month, we discovered a kind of cyber-cross between horoscope, wine guru, and psychic. Apparently if you’re willing to share your preference of ideal date scenario and comfort with a wine list – along with a couple of minor details like age and personality type – you’ll get a personalized synopsis telling you how to “make understanding, buying, and drinking” wine more fun. Like we need an excuse? Still, this is just one of those cute ways to spend a few minutes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Standards for BC’s Wine Industry

Although there’s been little fanfare, British Columbia’s wine industry has a new set of standards and regulations. Thanks to a provincial law passed on July 18, 2007, and named the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation, these new standards come under the umbrella of the BC Wine Authority (BCWA) which will implement the newly enacted regulations and recommend future changes.

The BC Wine Authority regulations will require all wineries to be registered and meet a core set of standards for both winemaking and labeling. The mandatory level of Wines of Marked Quality does not, however, include VQA certification which will continue to be an optional program.

Previously, the BC wine industry was governed by the Wine Act that legally created the VQA standard which the BC Wine Institute has overseen since 1990. “The BC Wine Institute and its winery members are extremely proud of how the VQA program evolved and believe these standards have driven the positive, quality-directed growth of our industry,” says Scott Fraser, BC Wine Institute chair. “We believe moving standards into a separate organization – an organization independent of the wineries themselves and one that has enforcement powers – will strengthen the standards’ credibility even more and will overall serve consumers’ interests better.”

“Many of the best minds in the BC wine industry have been working tirelessly to establish the Wine Authority,” says Shaun Everest, marketing manager at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards (vineyards at harvest time shown above). With so many players involved, it was a long and difficult process. Now that the BC Wine Authority is officially in the picture, everyone can get on with what they do best… which is continue to make our fabulous BC wines.”

FYI: There are over 130 wineries in British Columbia – almost double the number from just six years ago – and over 410 grape growers. The BC wine industry employs more than 3,000 full- and part-time workers, and by sales, is Canada’s number one producer of premium wine grapes.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Domaine des Corbillieres 2005 Touraine Sauvignon: Mint Mysteries

We’re having a bit of a conundrum with this wine. Actually it’s becoming more than just a bit of a conundrum – it’s an out and out mystery. About a month ago we discovered the 2005 Touraine Sauvignon at White and Gold: An Afternoon with Wines of the Loire Valley, a summer tasting organized by Liberty Wine Merchants.

It was an instant hit – not just with the two of us but with almost everyone in attendance – because of its subtle yet distinct mint undertone. Yes, at first we questioned whether our palates were playing tricks, but everyone in the room had the same reaction. Mint, definitely. Very unusual, deliciously refreshing.

A week later we bought half a case.

Frank had the first bottle the next evening. No mint. Nada. A pleasant enough Sauvignon Blanc, but where was the mint that had captured our attention? A couple of days later, I took a second bottle to a patio party. I neglected to mention the mint to my fellow party goers, just asked if anyone could taste something unusual. Nope, just a nice, pleasant wine. No mint.

It was beginning to sound like a classic case of bottle variation. The big question now becoming: was it the bottle at the tasting or the ones we bought that have the variation? Two to one against the tasting – a bit of a disappointment because we really did like the unique flavour.

A call to Drew at Liberty got us no closer to a possible solution. He remembered the wine as being grassy and herbaceous – pretty much like you’d expect it to be – but no mint. Still we could certainly exchange the wine if we weren’t happy with it. Okay, we’d think about that option.

We’d almost decided to take Drew up on his exchange offer when one of Frank’s co-workers and an always looking for something new in the wine world person phoned to thank him for the bottle of wine he’d passed along. She loved the minty taste – hadn’t actually believed him when he told her about it. Uh-oh, we’re back to two for two for the mint.

Three bottles remain from our initial purchase. The good news is we know there can’t be a tie – and Drew definitely won’t be getting our bottles of this wine back. This is one mystery that’s proving far too much fun to give up on yet.

- The wine: Domaine des Corbillieres 2005 Touraine Sauvignon
- The grape: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
- The price: $19.99
- Available at Liberty Wine Merchants and BC Liquor Stores
- The Domaine des Corbillieres estate encompasses 23 hectares: 13 hectares of Touraine Blanc Sauvignon, eight hectares of Touraine Rouge (Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cot, and Cabernet Franc), one hectare of Touraine Rosé (Pineau D'Aunis), and one hectare of Crémant de Loire (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir)
- The picture above left was taken in 1923 and is of Fabel Barbou and his wife, great grandfather to Dominique Barbou who, with his wife Véronique, now runs Domaine des Corbillieres.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Forchini’s 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve: Zin-fully Delicious

Frank’s back from his road trip and it was an undisputed success. In fact, he’s still raving about the wineries, the people, and the climate. Now I just need to get him to apply fingers to keyboard… not that I’m hinting you understand.

Meanwhile, though, there’s one story that already has a sequel, hopefully the first of many – that’s many stories about the trip and many sequels to this particular story.

The winery was Forchini Vineyards (their Petit Verdot vines shown left). Frank had stumbled on it by accident while he was looking for a spot to take pictures of the Dry Creek Valley. This particular winery is located at the top of the steepest driveway, so naturally that was where he pointed the truck. When he arrived at the peak, he spotted a father and son hanging out – well, not just hanging out. Jim and Michael were actually watching their power meter run backwards. Seems they’d just installed solar panels and were now feeding power back into California’s power grid.

At first they were a trifle suspicious. Later Michael confided he and his dad had been trying to figure out whether this guy at the end of their drive was a grower hoping to sell them grapes. It was a theme that would be repeated often – apparently the combination of truck, Daytons, and jeans spells “Grower” to most vineyard owners.

But they soon warmed up when Frank explained he was working toward his WSET Diploma and genuinely only wanted to snap a few photos of the valley. One thing led to another – again, a recurring theme of the trip. Jim left early, but seemingly in no time, Frank and Michael were ensconced on the patio sipping wines under the adoring gaze of two golden labs made famous on the pages of Wine Dogs: The Original Winery Dog Book.

Now you have to appreciate that Frank tasted hundreds of wine during his all too brief, five-day sojourn. But the Forchini 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve was one of the wines he chose to fulfill his meager allotment of two bottles – the maximum the Canadian government will allow you to bring back after even an extended visit outside the country without paying almost 150% in duties and taxes.

One, the Potter’s Viognier, never made it home. He drank it – yes, the whole bottle – enroute. But the Forchini 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve did arrive safe and sound in Vancouver. And he’s been telling me about it ever since he put it on the wine rack – not like any Zin I’ve ever tried, it’s going to change the way I think of Zins, I’ll love this one.

Finally I couldn’t stand it, I called his bluff. Open the bottle and let me taste for myself.

Thing is, it was no bluff. This is one amazing wine and truly is unlike any other Zinfandel we’ve ever tasted. The aromatics are lush – bordering on contemplative – and filled with spice plus something that seems elusively like licorice but isn’t. Over the evening, the spices intensified but never overwhelmed.

There’s no disappointment on the palate either. Tons of big, bold berry with an undertone of spice and still that unknown licorice or perhaps anise. Frank got just a hint of vanilla too – most likely from the 35% new American oak – but I was too infatuated to really care about the oak. This was, quite simply, everything he’d said and more.

Definitely created in a traditional Italian style, the finish is long, lingering, and smooth. As Frank put it, you can swish it around in your mouth all you like and you won’t get any tannins or harshness. It covers the entire tongue from front to back with no hot spots anywhere. Yet surprisingly, this wine packs 15.2% alcohol – very uncharacteristically, Frank was off by 2% pegging it at 13%.

As we were savouring the last glass, Frank finally confessed. “I’m really glad this was as good as I remember it being. I’ve been talking it up to you for so long now I was starting to wonder if it was actually more to do with the time and the place – you know, the dogs flopped out in the tasting room, the sunshine, the conversation. But it really is just as wonderful as I remembered.” And although this wine is sold out far in advance, sometime in the future we agreed a return visit with Jim and Michael is now high up on our “must make time for” list.


- The Wine: 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve
- Cost: $25.00 (US)
- The Forchini Vineyard produces a total of only 3,000 cases of wine per year. They own 24 acres along the Russian River and 67 acres in Dry Creek.
- Only 350 cases of the 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve were produced. This vintage is made from 100 year old, dry farmed vines grown on the eastern Dry Creek Valley benchland.
- The Forchini wine labels are portraits painted by the Italian artist Caravaggio. Born in 1571,Caravaggio lived a controversial, passionate life and was renown for his impressionistic work with its still life realism and dramatic contrasts between light and dark.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

White and Gold: An Afternoon with Wines of the Loire Valley

Sunday afternoon and what better place to be than a wine tasting? This one had particularly caught our attention with the vintages on offer – all from the Loire Valley, all whites. With nary a red in sight, we figured this would be close to Frank’s idea of heaven – especially with the vintages on offer.

We couldn’t quite place the address, but set off regardless never suspecting that tucked away in the basement of a classically subdued, black building in a somewhat nondescript Vancouver neighbourhood, Liberty Wine Merchants would have a traditional, cellar-style tasting room. It was just the first surprise of the afternoon.

Following the tradition of an afternoon garden party, we were greeted by a glass of Moncontour n/v Touraine Tete de Cuvee Brut. A blend of 95% Chenin Blanc and 5% Chardonnay, this sparkler offered good acidity, a traditionally yeasty nose, and the crisp Chenin flavour. At $24.99, we agreed this is a pleasant wine and a good value.

Next up was a Coing de Saint Fiarce 2005 Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie that immediately garnered the first star of our evolving Frank’s Rating System – that’s one star for good enough to stock, two stars for a wine that will definitely become a regular, and two stars with a “B” for rush out and buy this wine right now! Frank immediately said lime apple with a touch of iodine. I passed on the apple component. But we both agreed this is one to stock and a perfect match with seafood. At $23.99, it will also likely replace our current standard Muscadet for everyday sipping.

We felt the Chesnanie 2005 Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie that came next was, while still pleasant and typical of a Muscadet, was overall less balanced than the previous wine – especially as the price point was identical. With the slight briny background taste, it would be worth trying with salty oysters – in other words, we’ll probably have to be heading down to Granville Island for a visit to The Lobster Man, our favourite oyster supplier.

However, our eyes popped with the first swirl of the Domaine des Corbillieres 2005 Touraine Sauvignon that was next. Mint – no question about it. Subtle yet distinct, this wine actually has a note of mint. By far the most unusual wine of the afternoon, this one ranked the coveted two stars with a “B” designation. A steal at $19.99.

We were disappointed by the Valery Renaudat 2003 Quincy that followed. Little nose and dull on the palate. At $34.99, we’ll stick with a Sancerre or Pouilly. Turns out there is also no information on the web – at least none we could find.

A Tinel Blondelet 2005 Sancerre la Croix Canat was next, and our taste buds were soon revived. Bright, crisp, and flinty, this one is a good example of Sancerre. Absolutely cries out for goat cheese. Frank also detected a hint of gooseberry and fresh cut grass. $34.99.

The following Tinel Blondelet 2005 Pouilly Fume had a disappointing lack of aromatics and was not at all what we’d consider typical of a Pouilly. At the same price point, the Sancerre was a far better value.

When we got home, we discovered neither of us had any notes at all on the Baumard 2004 Vin de Pays Jardin de la France La Caleche that came next. Well, not quite, but suffice it to say we simply didn’t like this wine. $19.99.

The Chamboureau 2002 Savennieres was a typical Chenin Blanc, although at $34.99 neither of us could decide whether we actually liked it. No web information was forthcoming on a search later.

We didn’t linger much over the Hureau 2003 Saumur that was next up. Pleasant enough but at $37.99 not stellar value. We moved forward in the line up quickly.

Next was the afternoon’s second two star wine – a Champalou 2003 Vouvray Cuvee de Fondraux. Great aromatics with plenty of tropical fruits, there was still enough acidity to balance the sugar nicely. Great value at $33.99.

The Baumard 2003 Savennieres Trie Speciale that followed left a somewhat bitter after taste. We both gave this one a shrug and moved on – especially at a $49.99 price point.

The final wine of our French Garden Party was a Champalou 2003 Vouvray Cuvee Moelleuse. Rich with the aromas and texture of noble rot, this was another two star favourite. Full bodied and rich, it was the perfect wine to end with – we were both still enjoying the long, lingering finish many minutes later. Same price as the previous wine but with a whole lot more personality and attitude. Two stars with a B to Buy!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Climate Change: or Dad, Maybe We Shouldn’t Sell the Ranch Just Yet

Dad, I don’t know what you’ve heard about global warming, but it looks like we might be making a mistake selling the ranch. I know cattle prices are down and all, but apparently a rock ranch might have some value about now.

There was some big study done on Climate Change, and the BC government is thinking BC can grow grapes somewhere besides the Okanagan. And they’re spending money – big money – to find out where. Fifty grand, Dad, and another forty grand from the feds – all you gotta do is plant a few grapes to see which ones survive.

Those orchard guys sure picked up on this wine thing early. Did you know they’re getting a hundred thousand dollars an acre for grapes? Sure beats a couple of grand for grazing land.

Just think, no more dealing with cattle – all we’d have to handle are busloads of tourists lining up to taste our wine. Yeah, I guess the cattle prods might still have some use after all. And how’s this? We could change the barn into one of those rustic tasting room. Yup, you can charge ’em for the tasting. Those Yanks been doing it for years – never give away anything for free.

Maybe we can hire us that cute waitress from the bar to work the tasting room. No, I don’t think she needs to know anything about wine. Hey, I could be one of those wine geeks selling hundred dollar bottles of wine. Yes, Dad, people really do spend a hundred bucks on one bottle – sometimes even more.

No, I have NOT been drinking too much this morning. When it gets too hot for California to grow all those Napa Cabs, someone’s going to have to do it. And if it gets cold, we can just make ice-wine. No, it’s a tad more complicated than just adding ice cubes. You gotta let the grapes freeze right on the vine. Remember all those veggies we lost years back? Hell, no problem now. Might have a problem getting the boys off the horses and teaching them how to prune the vines – but oh well.

I checked it out, and there’s even some place in France that’s got just about as much rock as we do – Shaaa-toe-nuff de something. We can hire us one of those French guys to show us how to make wine with lots of points. You know points – up to a hundred. Nah, I haven’t a clue what the difference between 92 and 93 points would be either. But the more points you get, the more money you get – and we want to be selling our stuff for big bucks.

Yeah, Dad, it probably is a good thing they don’t give points to Scotch, and beer might still drive the price up. Anyway, let’s keep an eye on this. Hell, maybe we’ll finally be able to get rid of them snowshoes too.


Okay, we're being even more cheeky than usual, but here are a few serious Global Warming links worth checking out. (Pancho Campo from the Spanish Wine Academy has a long-standing interest in the global warming phenomenon. In fact, Pancho's thesis, which he will present to the Institute of Masters of Wine in order to become the first Spanish Master of Wine, centres around the impacts of climate change.) (The second INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE & WINE will analyse what is climate change and its impact on the wine industry. Leading world experts will gather in Barcelona for two days to conduct seminars, lectures, and discussion forums on the impact and repercussions climate change is having on the wine industry in the most important wine producing regions of the world.)