Birthday week, Day 1: Some great food and wine, and some awful wine. A mixed bag!

So I woke up on my birthday yesterday, slept in real late, the wife brought me breakfast in bed, where I stayed all day long, doing absolutely nothing but eating bon-bons all day long and watching TV.

Yeah, right.

What I actually did yesterday was spend about 5 back-breaking hours making dinner.

Chanterelle mushroom tortellini

I found a place in Vancouver (West Coast Wild Foods) that sources fresh mushrooms, among other things, and is willing to ship them here. It’s impossible to find quality mushrooms in Chilliwack, so I usually have to buy dried mushrooms and re-constitute them (actually you can’t even get quality DRIED mushrooms out here, I have to have those shipped here too!). That’s OK, but obviously fresh is so, so, so much better. I originally discovered these guys at the annual German Christmas Market in Vancouver that I go to every year. In addition to the fresh stuff, they have a ‘Wild Mushroom Soup Kit’ that makes the best Cream of Mushroom Soup on the freaking planet. I’ve been buying that for a few years, and I was sad that I wasn’t going to have the chance to get it this year, until I stumbled upon their website. So, I had 2 pounds of mushrooms and a soup kit shipped out here. At least that is ONE Christmas tradition that I can keep this year!

And what a year it has been. For my 50th last year, we were in Florida, enjoying a fabulous vacation. But come 51, we are at home, quarantined. And this year has not been kind to me, as these pictures prove.

The author, at 50.
12 short months later.

So dinner last night was tortellini Alfredo with shredded parmesan and Garlic Cheese Sourdough bread. It was really good if I do say so myself. The wife actually said it should be on a restaurant menu. I am sure she just said that because it was my birthday and she’s contractually obligated to say one nice thing to me every calendar year. It’s nice of her to make a special occasion out of it.

For the dinner wine, we went back to an old favorite, and it was a phenomenal pairing with the food.

For our second bottle, we figured we might as well stick to the Chardonnay theme, and bring it back home to BC with a beauty from Checkmate! We chose the 2015 Little Pawn, one of the wines that was given a 100-point score from critic John Schreiner.

Corked. D’oh!!! The first wine from Checkmate we’ve ever had spoiled.

OK, well, we still have lots of great Chardonnay in the wine room, so we go and select on that we just bought about a month ago at Everything Wine, a 2014 Chard from Ridge in California!

CORKED?!!?!?!?

Jesus, that’s about $200 worth of corked wine in one night. I am sure I’ll get restitution on both, but still, that’s quite extraordinary.

So, back to Hartford I guess, to one we had not previously enjoyed.

Delicious, as every wine from this producer is. So consistant and such high quality.

That’s it for today, but stay tuned for more “BIRTHDAY WEEK” food and wine adventures!

Huge Wine-R TV Volume 5: Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, terroir and oak; a little exploration of each!

So, just how much difference can two wines be, from the same producer, same grape, same year, from two different vineyards? Let’s find out!

The link to my latest YouTube video is right here.

As promised, my reviews of the two wines sampled in the video. When it came time to pick a favorite….I couldn’t. Both are terrific.

Next up: I promise to catch up on months of reviews of some pretty darn good stuff, hopefully that starts this weekend! Stay tuned!

Adventures in Blind Tastings, Episode 1!

Published my third YouTube video last night, and here is the link. I have also provided reviews of the wines we tasted in this video below, along with the wine I tasted in the second video which I had posted last week.

We had a lot of fun with this, and I highly recommend you all try blind tasting if you haven’t already. It’s really, really hard, but it’s pretty satisfying when you get one right!

Huge Wine-R, Volume 3

Now, the wines in the above video, and last week’s as well.

Next up, still have a handbook full of recent (and some not quite so recent) reviews to catch up on, so stay tuned!

Random update of wine from around the world, including 2 of the best Chardonnays you will EVER find….

First, for those of you who missed my announcement last night, I’ve started a wine-centric YouTube channel! The first video is up now, and I will be adding more content on a regular basis. Hopefully, every week. Please check it out and subscribe so you don’t miss any videos!

Confessions Of A Huge Wine-r, Volume 1

Tons of reviews for you today, we’ll start with a bunch of stuff from BC:

And a little trip to Italy for this amazing Super Tuscan!

Here are a couple Pinot Noirs from California. The Phelps I had previously tasted (December 2019) and gave it 91 points at that time. Amazing how much it improved in 8 or so months!

And, to finish up, the two Chardonnays I mentioned up front. Just incredible fruit on both of them!

Very much looking forward to trying another bottle of this, and seeing if this becomes the first table wine to get my elusive 100-point score! It’s definitely possible.

That’s it for today! Coming up, tons more wine to review, including several more spectacular Chardonnays. Stay tuned!

Okanagan Trip report finally wraps up at the new home of some of the goodies from the Hatch…@BlackSwiftWine!

As we approach this gorgeous new winery, my wife says “wow, not bad for a bunch of assholes!”.

So, so true.

Now, before you think that’s an insult, it’s not. If you’ve never been to The Hatch, you have probably not experienced a winery so fun, so irreverent, so….”assholeish”. And I mean that in the best way possible.

As I am sure many of you know, The Hatch has ‘broken up’ into three separate (but still related entities). The Hatch that you know and love still exists in the same locale. Crown + Thieves is expected to open sometime late this fall, and today’s report features the new venture known as Black Swift Vineyards. And it’s quite something.

The view as we approached the winery.
The wife, the dog, and the view from our table.

I sarcastically complained about the view being TOO good, and our lovely host, Grayson, said “no problem, we’ll make sure we get a Wal-Mart put up there to block it for ya”.

Like I said….what an asshole 🙂

The only labels that they took from the Hatch are Black Swift Vineyards (obviously) and the Screaming Frenzy line. I’m oversimplifying it, but let’s say the BSV are the big, serious wines, and the Frenzy stuff is a bit simpler, a little more whimsy and perhaps more approachable in their youth.

When Crown + Thieves opens, they will be selling (I believe) only the Crown + Thieves line, leaving The Hatch with their house wines (Ross O, B Yanco), the Gobsmacked line, and the other miscellaneous stuff like Hatchfinity, Hatchchild, etc etc. Their just-announced wine club has 6 or 7 options….you can get wine from one of the wineries, or all of them. I haven’t done a deep-dive into it yet, as most of the options don’t begin until 2021, but it seems like you should be able to ensure you get exactly what you want.

Lots to talk about, so let’s get to the wine!

And one bonus review, something we had tasted previously but I had never posted:

So that’s finally the last report from our summer trip to the Okanagan. Next up, a ton of stuff we have been enjoying since then, AND, I still have an exciting announcement that I have been working on and am hoping to get posted this weekend, or middle of next week. Stay tuned!

A birthday party during a Pandemic; oh how things have changed.

Well, we tried to prove it was possible to throw a fun, SAFE, party in a pandemic. I guess it depends on your definition of “party”. Our patio isn’t that big, so we limited the attendees to five people, the largest number we can possible seat out there and keep up social distancing guidelines. It worked, for the most part, everyone was comfortable and most importantly, safe.

And we know everyone was safe because this party was a month ago and nobody got sick 🙂

Our dear friend was entering her late 40’s, so we decided to treat her to some great wine and hopefully decent food. Let’s check and see how it went.

Amuse Bouche

Parmesan & Chilliwack Corn Lollipops

These were tasty, if unspectacular. The presentation was pretty cool, a bunch of melted cheese and corn stuck to a pretzel stick. We paired this with our all-time-favorite rosé, which I reviewed at the Vancouver International Wine Festival earlier this year.

Appetizer

Handmade Agnolotti w/Peas & Pancetta

This is a Thomas Keller recipe, and it’s just brilliant. This was my first attempt at a filled pasta and although they didn’t look all that pretty, they tasted superb. We paired this one with a nicely aged Barolo from an excellent year.

Seconds

Wild Mushroom Risotto

and

Baked Brie w/Blackberry Compote and Spiced Nuts

We didn’t serve those two dishes together, but we did pair them with two wines which made it through both courses.

For a brief interlude before we got to the main course, we served this wine which was used in the sauce for the steak. All the guests agreed it really punches above it’s class.

Main Course

Filet Mignon with Cab/Mushroom Sauce, Puréed Potatoes, Glazed Carrots

Paired with two excellent reds, this dish was the star of the show, as it should be.

Dessert

Black Forest Cake

This one was a request from the birthday girl, it’s her favorite cake. Probably my LEAST favorite but I guess I’ll make up for that when it’s time for MY birthday 🙂

All in all, a wonderful night of great company, food, and wine. Looking forward to the next time we can hold a bigger gathering and invite everyone we’d like to invite!

Up next: I still have to finish off the Okanagan report with my report on Black Swift, plus I have a ton of random stuff to review, AND………

….the reason the blog hasn’t been updated as much as I would like is that I am working on something special that I am very excited about. Still have a few steps to go to get it all set up where I would like it, but I am hoping to have at least the first part put together by this weekend. Stay tuned!

BC Rosé all day! All year! Part 3, the final installment….

Pretty sure I have now tasted all the BC Rosé that I am going to taste this year, so here are the last few that I have not yet posted. This posting features the one I was most disappointed with, as well as my favorite BC Rosé of the year.

Let’s start with a few others.

Now, to the one that was a big disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still perfectly quaffable…. but it came with such anticipation. This winery has been making great rosé from Pinot Noir for 3 or 4 years. I knew that their new winemaker had made a change, and switched it to a more Provence-style rosé made from Rhône varietals, and I was excited to try it, because I love that style of rosé, and this winemaker knows his stuff. This is from Ross Wise MW, one of only 7 Masters of Wine in Canada. Hopefully it all comes together next year.

Last, and certainly not least, the best rosé in BC this year, IMO:

That’s it for now! Next up, still have a lot of random stuff to report on, plus a great birthday dinner we hosted, and the last entry of the Okanagan trip at brand new Black Swift Vineyards!

Okanagan wine trip continues @tantaluswine!

Up and at ’em for an early morning appointment at Tantalus! We have been here several times, and we usually find ourselves thinking the same things: Good Riesling, VERY good Old Vines Riesling, OK Chardonnay, good Pinot Noir, and PERFECT (or close) Icewines. Let’s see if this visit would bring the same conclusions.

First up, the worst news possible….for now, at least, they have discontinued making Icewine. Devastating news. Of all the wines I have ever reviewed for this blog, only two have ever received a perfect 100-point score, and their 2015 Riesling Icewine was one such wine.

Let’s see how the new stuff stacks up!

So, a bit of a flip this time; we thought this was their best Chardonnay ever, and the Pinot Noir didn’t measure up to past vintages. The Rieslings held up as expected. Make no mistake, this is a house of Riesling and nothing is ever likely to change that.

SAFETY SCORE: 8.5

You have to go into the winery to check in, and then to buy your wine at the end. The tasting area is outside and is social distanced. At the time we visited, they were also taking walk-ins, and some of the tastings were set up inside. Shortly after our visit, I read on Instagram that they were discontinuing walk-ins.

Up next: The Okanagan Trip wraps up with one epic tasting at the New House the Hatch Built (TM), Black Swift Vineyards!

I also have tons of random stuff to report on….also, will finally delivery the long-awaited third (and final) installment of my 2019 BC Rosé report…..and also, we had a small gathering here last weekend to celebrate our friend’s birthday, and some pretty awesome wine was consumed. Stay tuned!

Okanagan trip gets taken up a notch or three, our first visit to Martin’s Lane!

The newest jewel in the Von Mandl crown is quite something to see. The construction of the winery is finished, but there is so much construction still going on around it that it’s difficult to believe it when you see it for yourself. We have trouble finding the front entrance in fact, and are relieved to see our guide come outside and flag us down so we can start our tour and tasting!

And, what a guide we have…..the winemaker himself, Shane Munn, is taking us on a little tour of the winery. We actually have TWO HOURS booked for this experience and are very much looking forward to it.

Shane takes us on a thorough tour of the winery, the sorting areas, production facility…it’s really quite spectacular. They have clearly spared no expense, and it shows in the quality of the wine.

Along the way, Shane presents us with a little “welcome wine”. Lots of wineries do this, but it’s not usually THIS good.

After the tour, we head inside where we are pleased to find a selection of their wines, ready for us to taste. As with their Von Mandl-partner, winery Checkmate, they focus on just two varietals. Whereas Checkmate does just Merlot and Chardonnay, Martin’s Lane produces just Riesling and Pinot Noir.

During the tour I had asked Shane if he ever planned to do an ice wine. Well, they had already done one, and he was happy to let us taste that as well. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about ice wine, and this one is right up there with the best ever.

What a fantastic experience, and Shane was a terrific guide through our tour and tasting. We look forward to our next visit.

SAFETY SCORE: 9

About half of the tour was outside, the rest of the tour and the tasting were inside, but there were literally just the three of us in the building, we didn’t come across another soul. Shane was seated across the huge table during the tasting, nothing to be concerned about there in terms of ‘social distancing’.

Up next: That’s it for the wine this day. We had a wonderful dinner at Home Block at CedarCreek after the Martin’s Lane tasting (right next door) and then headed back to our room to relax and rest up for the next day of tastings, beginning at Tantalus!

Okanagan trip continues just up the hillside…..@hillsidewines!

It has been 3-4 years since we’ve been here, and we are excited to be visiting again. Not that we didn’t enjoy our last visit, it was…..fine. We enjoyed a couple of the wines (IIRC, the Rosé and Cabernet Franc), the rest were OK, and the service and atmosphere was perfectly pleasant. What it lacked, I guess, was “IT”. Whatever that is, there was nothing that excited us enough to get us to rush back.

So what changed? Well, from all accounts, the wine has improved. That’s a pretty important point. Also, we get to see our good friend Shelann, who is taking us through our tasting today.

We have known Shelann for many years, she was the Wine Club concierge at Tinhorn Creek for years, and she always took fantastic care of us when we visited there. She moved to Hillside a couple of years ago and has been trying to get us up there ever since. We finally made it!

We are greeted with a huge sign saying “welcome Dean and Tracey!” and our table is set up and ready to go outside. Shelann knows that even though we are friends, I am going to be brutally honest when reviewing the wines….which really makes me hope that they are good! Let’s find out!

Lovely! No doubt the wine has improved since our last visit and we enjoyed just about everything. We’ll give that Gamay another try on our next visit and see if it was just a vintage problem.

SAFETY SCORE: 10

We were outdoors 100% of the time, nobody near us. Shelann was masked until we told her that she could take it off, as we weren’t afraid of picking a virus up from her as she was 10 feet away at all times and we were outside.

Next up: This is all we had time for in Naramata this trip, and we are off to check into our hotel and then have what we expect to be a very special evening. First up, a tour and tasting at Martin’s Lane!