Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Wine Barbarian - Wine Guide

Looking for a good, reasonably priced wine for a week night dinner?

Or enjoying a special meal and want a special wine to match it?

Need to impress friends at dinner with your wine choice?

Buying a bottle of wine as a gift for someone important?

The Wine Barbarian Wine Guide is here to help you make that sometimes challenging decision without fear.

Let my years of wine tasting and ongoing intensive research assist you in picking the perfect wine for the occasion.

The wines listed below are a small sample of some of the thousands of great bottles available in British Columbia and elsewhere. And you can find more reviews of wines I've recently enjoyed - or endured! - on this blog.

But the Wine Guide is a quick and easy way to find the wine you need right away.

And I'm always pleased to hear from you - whether you agree completely with my wine picks, aren't so sure or can't believe I'd drink that swill! Let me know and I'll double check to be certain my Wine Guide is doing its job.

The Wine Barbarian - Wine Guide


Reds

Our Daily Red

These wines are for everyday consumption – and don’t tell me you are looking at this website if you don’t drink wine regularly! For god’s sake, it’s in the Bible.

Anyway, the wines in this section are affordable - sorry to say but $20 is the new $15 and $15 is the new $10 – and worth every penny of your hard-earned dollar.

They are also food friendly, whether you are ordering in pizza, BBQing up burgers or a steak or boiling up a plate of pasta. And in most cases, these wines are easily outperforming their more expensive shelf-mates at the wine store.

But don’t look here for the ubiquitous Yellow Tail or Little Penguin or other animal farm type offerings – they are fine for what they are but spend your money on something a little more original, more interesting and definitely more tasty!

Cheers!

Château Pesquié - Les Terrasses - France - Côtes du Ventoux 2005-06 - $16.99
One of the best red wines available in BC and at an extremely reasonable price, Chateau Pesquie’s 2005 received an incredible 92 points out of 100 rating from the dean of wine writers Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate. A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah [shiraz] that shows dark berry fruit, licorice, pepper and spice, this is simply an awesome wine for the money – my first choice for an under $20 red.







Peter Lehmann - Weighbridge Shiraz – Australia – 2005-06 - $15.99

BC is awash with Australian shiraz [syrah] and many are excellent but this is a particularly good value and dependable product. Plum, spice and chocolate combine for a real meal deal.









Finca Flichman – Malbec – Argentina – 2006 - $9.99

It is nearly impossible to find a decent bottle of wine for less than $10 these days but the good folks at Flinca Flichman have done it. You are not getting – nor paying for – a classic Bordeaux at this price but you will find a wine with some fruit, a touch of smoke and spice.






Catena Zapata – Alamos - Malbec – Argentina - 2006 - $17.00

Malbec is a grape that is practically made for steak and this fairly priced Argentian gaucho is ready for the round up. Loads of dark plum fruit with mocha and spice – how can you go wrong? And with the Wine Spectator giving it a powerful 87 point score you know it’s not just my opinion.





Carmen – Cabernet Sauvignon – Chile – 2006 - $14.00

You can’t list red wines without a cabernet sauvignon, the king of varietal red grapes, and this Carmen offering is about as good as you can find for the price of $14. The 2005 vintage gained an impressive 87 point rating from the Wine Spectator and this year’s model should do equally well, with blackberry, cherry and cassis in an easy drinking style. Carmen is my favourite Chilean winery for decent priced bottles.





Undurraga – Pinot Noir Reserva – Chile – 2007 - $15.99

What kind of a wine guide doesn’t have a pinot noir? Not any I care to read. This Chilean pinot has velvety cherry fruit and pairs well with salmon – yes, red wine with fish – or lighter meats.



For those days when you’re tired of having your tongue beat up by Aussie shiraz and fat cabs, this is a pleasant change.




Hogue Cabernet-Merlot – Washington, USA – 2005 ??? - $14.99


One of the best values in red wines comes from just south of the border – where it isn’t a best value, it’s a steal at less than $10 – the Hogue cabernet-merlot blend. Even at Canadian prices this is a worthy bottle, with cherry-berry essence that is ready for whatever red meat or pasta you are cooking up.






Grape Expectations


Everyday wines are great but there are times when you just have to have something better – a wine that leaves you saying: “Damn! I wish I were rich! Then I’d drink this every day!” Or at least when you finish the bottle there’s a hint of a tear in your eye, because it was that good and there’s no more.
Whether it’s a special event with your loved ones, celebrating a big achievement or some good luck or having the boss over for dinner, these wines are guaranteed to impress you and your drinking partners – even if they don’t have a clue about good wine.
Enjoy them – you paid for it!

Mollydooker - The Boxer Shiraz – Australia – 2006 - $34.99

If you like them big, bold and bodacious, this premium product from instant success Mollydooker fills the bill. A huge shiraz with an equally massive alcohol content of 16% - yes, that’s right – The Boxer is indeed a knockout wine. Lots of ripe dark fruit, spice and a right hook to put you out of your misery.

Altos - Los Hormigas - Malbec Reserva 2006 - Mendoza - Argentina $32.97

This is a fantastic wine with intense flavours that just won't quit. It's like drinking a blackberry patch to me but the Altos winemakers say plum, marasca cherry and hints of spice. Who cares? It's absolutely delicious.



Incredible value for this price. Altos Los Hormigas is Spanish for "ant heights" and the winery has made the hard-working ant is good luck charm. The Wine Spectator gives this 92 points and a Highly Recommended special designation - so do I.








Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wine Barbarian Bottles - Today's Tasting

Tuesday August 19, 2008

Louis Jadot - Rose de Marsannay 2006
Burgundy, France

Wine Barbarian Rating: 88 of 100 points

Price: $23.99 - BC Liquor Stores

Tasting Notes: If you still think rose means 1970s Mateus in a funny bottle, you are missing a world of wine pleasure. This very dry, sophisticated and extremely tasty rose is a perfect summer aperitif wine but has enough strength to match many summer meals on a hot night.

Think of a wine that both looks and tastes like wild strawberries - fresh, tart and delicious. Made from pinot noir - and the Jadot folks suggest it goes well with frogs legs!

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Monday August 18, 2008

Edge Wines 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine Barbarian Rating: 88 of 100 points

Price: $31.99 - BC Liquor Stores

Tasting Notes: A decent offering from Ray Signorello Junior of Signorello Vineyards - always a top producer - this is an effort to make an accessible, drink-now Cab at a lower cost.

It succeeds but for the price is pushing it's luck - our American neighbours will be shocked at the price because south of the border it retails for about $20.

It has good dark berry fruit, some but not heavy oak and nice finish.

We were desperate for a Napa Cab after seeing Bottle Shock, so this was satisfying but definitely not a Heitz or Caymus - fortunately, nor was the price.


Other Opinions: Tony Gismondi rates this a 90.



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Sunday August 17, 2008

Goats Do Roam 2006 red blend

Fairview, South Africa

Wine Barbarian Rating: 84 of 100 points

Price: $14.99 - BC Liquor Stores

Tasting Notes: The Goats wines from South Africa are great value for money - and while the names are very funny, the wine is very good. This is the entry level wine and the parody is aimed at Cotes du Rhone wines from France. The blend isn't listed but expect to find syrah, grenache and mouvedre in a spicy and lighter style that is most drinkable.

If you like this offering, try their awesome Goat Rotie - yes, a take-off on France's famed Cote Rotie or their Goats Do Roam in Villages - a spoof on Cotes du Rhone Villages. The Goat Rotie is $23.79 at BC Liquor stores while the Villages is about $18 and is no longer carried by government stores but may be found at some private sellers.

Other Opinions: The Wine Spectator rates it 85.


Bottle Shock a great movie and a fantastic movie about winemaking!



Don't believe a single negative review - and there are more than a few of them out there - about the new movie Bottle Shock - because it is great!

Based on the true story of an historic tasting showdown between French and Napa Valley wines that took place in Paris in 1976 - with the upstart Californians winning the battle - this fictionalized film will appeal to wine lovers and those who just want a movie that tells a good story with humour, drama and interesting characters.

The price of the movie is worthwhile if simply to watch Alan Rickman's portrayal of British wine educator/merchant Steven Spurrier, a somewhat out of place Englishman in Paris who comes up with the idea of a contest between the snobby French wineries and the in-the-dirt, struggling young Californians.

Rickman is hilarious, but he also captures a wine snob learning that his horizons have been foolishly limited by focusing only on French wines.

The movie is solely about Chateau Montelena, which won the white wine top prize with its 1973 Chardonnay, beating out top crus from Burgundy in the blind tasting in what Time magazine called "Judgment of Paris."

An uptight father versus hippy son drama may be exaggerated for theatrical purposes but Bill Pullman as Montelena owner Jim Barrett and Chris Pine as prodigal son Bo Barrett - now Montelena's winemaker - is probably too close to home at times.

Throw in a love interest attractive blonde wine intern, a dedicated Mexican-American winemaker and a foppish American expatriate in Paris who urges Spurrier on in his quest, add a great soundtrack of Doobie Brothers, Foghat, Bad Company and other rockers of the 1970s and you have a vintage movie about wine.

There are quibbles of course - like only mentioning in the credits that the fabulous Stag's Leap Wine Cellars pulled off the equally impressive win in a red wine competition at the same time, or that regrettably Chateau Montelena hasn't exactly been a dominant winery in Napa Valley despite that early success.

But for all other than hard core winos these are insignificant points.

Bottle Shock - don't miss it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pair Bistro for an Earth Day meal of BC's best foods

Earth Day is a great occasion to celebrate the best foods British Columbia has to offer and one of the restaurants featuring BC bounty is Pair Bistro in Point Grey-Kitsilano.

So to enjoy Earth Day with local harvest - and to live up to my own 24 hours newspaper column - we walked over to Pair on Tuesday.

Pair has an exclusively BC wine list - something that would have been unthinkable maybe 10 years ago and almost undrinkable 20 years ago, with a few exceptions.

And it's a good list, with several wines by the glass - something every Vancouver restaurant should be doing but isn't.

My wife Shirley had a 2006 Van Westen viognier for $10.50, a very floral, fragrant wine from Naramata that I had not tasted before and was tempted to steal away.

I had a Blackwood Lane chardonnay for $9.50 from the Langley-based winery that sources grapes from the Okanagan but also has vines in the Fraser Valley. It's a tasty wine but may be a bit pricey for the value.

We started with Effingham Inlet oysters - an excellent, accessible choice that went well with both wines.

For my main I picked the special, Queen Charlotte Island tuna with julienned fennel and watercress. It was cooked perfectly and delicious.

I matched it well with a glass of 2006 Church & State sauvignon blanc for $10, recommended by proprietor Janis Hodgins, who was also one of our servers. [I really like owners who serve food - it keeps them in touch with customers and shows a commitment to their establishment. And I didn't know she was an owner till the end of our meal.]

Shirley had a favourite from the regular menu, Peace River bison ribs. It's a hearty meal that comes with cornbread and bbq sauce. She had a glass of Gary Oaks Fetish - a cabernet franc, merlot blend - for $11.

We had a side of assorted sauteed BC mushrooms to go with our meals - absolutely wonderful!

BC has an amazing assortment of foods available and Pair Bistro does an admirable job providing a huge number of choices for a small restaurant.


Lumiere versus West - Fall 2007 restaurant showdown

Two of Vancouver's top award-winning restaurants - Lumiere and West - have both undergone major upheavals in the past year, with Iron Chef Rob Feenie being forced out of both ownership and top job at Lumiere while West's chef David Hawksworth has left that Granville Street icon to open a new restaurant in 2009.

But I was fortunate enough to eat at Lumiere after Feenie left in October 2007 and at West in December before Hawksworth departed to eventually open his own restaurant at the new Hotel Georgia.

Both meals were excellent and memorable but a clear winner emerged quickly - Lumiere.

Lumiere simply offered better food, superior service and a more enjoyable atmosphere than West.

This result is all the more impressive because is shows the departure of the admired but often disliked Feenie did not impact the quality of Lumiere's food.

Dale MacKay, the chef de cuisine at Lumiere who took over the reins from the oft-absent Feenie, deserves full credit for maintaining the restaurant's high standards that have won it acclaim around the world. MacKay is no slouch either, having been the sous chef at
Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants in New York and Tokyo and survived the Hell's Kitchen honcho.

And since then Lumiere's owners David and Manjy Sidoo have announced that international celebrity chef
Daniel Boulud will be their new business partner and executive chef at Lumière, with MacKay staying on as the main man day-to-day in the kitchen.

The Sidoos, who allegedly squeezed part-owner Feenie out the door over a variety of issues after Feenie brought them in as partners a few years back when the restaurant was in financial crisis, have clearly shown they know what they are doing, despite some criticism from those in the food business.

Back to basics - dinner.

Lumiere

Lumiere is a definite splurge restaurant - unless you are a Hollywood star, Mercedes dealer, Howe Street hustler or independently wealthy.

But it is worth the big bucks, particularly for the special occasion like your wedding anniversary. That's why my wife Shirley and I decided it was time to revisit Lumiere after a long absence.

[In case you're wondering, our other fine dining favourites are the always great
Bishop's and Le Crocodile.]

Lumiere understands it is offering a premium restaurant experience and treats you accordingly from arrival to departure.

Pleasantly dark without being so dim that you can't see your food, Lumiere's small room is well laid out with almost enough room between guests that you can avoid hearing how close they are to a film deal - almost.

We started with a glass of Codorniu pinot noir rose cava , a nice Spanish sparkling wine to go with the amuse bouche - a layered triangle of crepe with macadamia nut, 25-year old balsamic vinegar and foie gras.

Lumiere has three fixed prix menu choices - Vegetarian for $85, Chef's for $125 and Signature for $180.

We chose the Signature - noting that it would have been a good time to be a vegetarian - and were not disappointed.

Knowing both fish and meat would be on the menu, we ordered a half bottle of 2002 Domain Chandon chardonnay from Napa Valley, a very nice wine for $42.

First course was an ahi tuna carpaccio with dungeness crab salad, with frisee and a turnip sliver - yes, turnip. It was excellent, even the turnip.

Next came a white onion veloute with king oyster mushrooms and pearl onions, which was very good.

An unusual combination followed, Qualicum Bay scallops with quail eggs on a potato croquette, with brocollini tips and a warm truffle vinagrette. While it sounds odd, the matching worked wonderfully.

Then came another surprising dish, Queen Charlotte Islands halibut crusted with spicy chorizo sausage! This prompted a definite "wow" as the two very different tastes combined beautifully. Definitely something I would have never thought of but will try at home. We matched this with a 2006 Brumont Gros Manseng sauvignon blanc at $16 a glass.

I love duck but our next course was unfortunately the least impressive, duck breast with parsnip puree and brussel sprout leaves in a madeira sauce. It was competent but not exciting.

However, our wine choice was -
Au Bon Climat's 2004 La Bauge Au Dessus pinot noir at $68 for a half bottle. Massively cherry, plummy, smooth and velvety, it is one of Jim Clendenen's best Santa Barbara pinots, coming from the Bien Nacido vineyard. [We love all of the ABC wines and Jim is one of the most interesting California winemakers in the business. If you haven't visited the Santa Barbara region yet despite it's "Sideways" movie fame, it is probably the best place to experience great wine without Napa's wine Disneyland effect.]

Any nervousness after the duck disappeared when the venison loin arrived in a port reduction with edaname beans in a yogurt sauce with grainy mustard and taragon. Excellent!

Not full yet? The portions are not large and service spaces them comfortably apart but you will not go home hungry.

So on to the cheese course, with munster, comte juraflore, manchego, livarot, benedictine, brie bonaparte and la sauvagine all on the plate.

Then came dessert, lots of dessert. A black mission fig carpaccio with concord grape sorbet to start, then lemongrass and mango pavlova with fresh fruit - very good indeed.

We matched dessert with a glass of 2000 DeBortoli Noble One [$20] which I've had and liked before but found just too sweet this time.

Next was a carmelized white chocolate namelaka - for lack of better description a wafer - with peach sorbet and poached peaches.

After that, hard to believe, came les migniardises - mini chocolates and candies - also delicious.

It was a memorable meal indeed, one of the best I've had in a restaurant anywhere. The fact that it was a short walk away in Kitsilano made it all the better.

West

We wouldn't ordinarily get to two high end restaurants a few months apart short of winning the lottery but our good friend Julie's 50th birthday required a special celebration in December.

The South Granville Street eatery has long been recognized as one of the city's best and Hawksworth one of our most talented chefs.

The room is pleasant but somewhat noisy and crowded, which takes away from the food experience.

Like Lumiere, West also offers tasting menus at $89 for Vegetarian, $98 for Spring and $129 for West. It would have been a more appropriate comparison had we chosen the top tasting menu but it didn't appeal to us that evening and so we went a la carte.

We started with a half litre of one of my favourite whites, a 2006 Chateau de Sancerre, that went well with the amuse bouche - an asparagus and truffle soup with a healthy green foam on top.

I chose a galantine of quail with quail eggs as my starter - the quail was cold while the eggs were deep fried, along with a foie gras parfait and chips. Enjoyable but the cold quail didn't work for me that well.

Shirley and Julie had kushi oysters on the half shell - can't go wrong there.

For my main I went for the bouillabaisse, a seafood stew packed with delicious B.C. shellfish and fish. It was decently done but not exceptional.

Shirley had a squab with roast vegetables and a porcini mushroom jus. Very good but not "wow."

Julie had crab and scallop ravioli with lemongrass, which was quite tasty.

Julie and I shared a half litre of 2002 La Chablisienne Premier Cru "Fourchaume" chablis for $57, a very nice wine. Shirley had a glass of 2004 Arrocal tempranillo from Ribera del Duero at $12 and later a 2003 Allegrini Palazzo Della Terre from the Veneto region of Italy for $15. Both good choices.

Service was pleasant and competent but not out of the ordinary for fine dining.

Desserts - ice cream, a lemony pavlova and a chocolate cake - were good but not noteworthy.

Overall I was disappointed, all the more so for having been very impressed with Lumiere's offerings six weeks earlier.

West is still an excellent restaurant and it will be interesting to see what noted new executive chef Warren Geraghty, who arrived from London's highly regarded L'Escargot in February, will do there.

But anyone who has written off Lumiere because of Rob Feenie's departure should think again - it is still a fabulous restaurant that is difficult, if not impossible, to beat.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Support ALS at February 16 winetasting fundraiser and dinner

I urge you to support this good cause - and taste some excellent BC wines!

- Bill Tieleman


GRAPES FOR A GOOD CAUSE BENEFITING THE ALS SOCIETY OF BC
(RICHMOND WINE GALA BENEFITING THE ALS SOCIETY OF BC)

RICHMOND, January 28, 2008...The Vancouver Broadway Lions Club showcases
over 20 of B.C.’s top wineries with a Wine Gala fundraiser on Saturday, February
16th, 2008 at 3:00 p.m. at the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre,
7311 Westminster Highway in Richmond.


The event will benefit the ALS Society of BC.

Tickets are $88 per person, available by contacting Lions SheIla Keung at
604.803.6698 or Steven Li at 604.649.7930.

The Wine Gala, crafted for the wine enthusiast and connoisseur, begins with a wine tasting and silent auction followed by a reception, dinner and dancing to the music of Federico.

Funds raised by the event will help to provide direct support to patients, their families, and caregivers as well as patient services and research. The event will also help to increase public awareness and understanding of ALS.

ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a rapidly progressive neuromuscular degenerative disease. It can hit anyone, at any time, regardless of age, gender or ethnic origin. The ALS Society of BC provides equipment for mobility and communications, as well as emotional and practical support to patients and families.


Wines featured include:

WINE TASTING GALA 2008
February 16, 2008

FEATURING:

Arrowleaf Cellars Hillside Estate Winery
Black Hills Estate Winery Kettle Valley Winery
Burrowing Owl Estate Larch Hills Winery
Winery
Quails gate Estate Winery
Cedar Creek Estate Winery
Rollingdale Vineyardtones
Chateau des Charmes Winery
Deep Creek Wine Estate & Seven Stones Winery
Hainle Vineyards Estate
Winery Stone Boat Vineyards
Desert Hills Estate Winery Township 7 Vineyards &
Winery
Domaine de Chaberton
Twisted Tree Vineyard &
Elephant Island Orchard Winery
Winery
Winchester Cellars
Fairview Cellars Vineyard & Winery

Golden Beaver Winery Inc.

Gray Monk Vineyard & Winery

Herder Winery & Vineyard

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