Good riddance, 2020……

Oh, what a year.

But it’s over now, of course, and if nothing else, 2021 should (eventually) bring us closer to normalcy. Actually in the world we live in today, I’m not totally sure that ‘normalcy’ is a thing anymore. I guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, here are the rest of the wines that we enjoyed in 2020. I had posted a picture of our New Year’s Eve wines, a Riesling from Martin’s Lane and a 2012 Cristal. Well, the Riesling was lovely, but my wife wasn’t feeling well before we cracked open the Cristal so that will have to wait. Not long, I don’t imagine; her birthday is in a couple of weeks and there is always the Super Bowl shortly after that. We will find a good reason to drink it soon ­čÖé

I was tempted just to open it anyway and drink it myself, but I thought it might be more important to actually stay married.

To the wine!

That’s it for tonight, but we are not QUITE done with 2020 yet. Next up, the Top 10 wines of 2020! Stay tuned!

“Italy month” begins in Piedmont, a very familiar wine region, with a very familiar grape….but maybe not to Italian wine fans!

Here is the link to the video where I discuss a certain wine from Italy that we weren’t that familiar with, and you probably won’t be either!

Below, a full review of the wine we opened and enjoyed.

Next up! Finishing off the 2020 wine and following that with the “Best of 2020”! Stay tuned!

Reviews of a bunch of stuff as we wind down 2020!

If you are reading this, you have survived 2020. That normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but in these times, that is no small feat. Congrats to us all.

Getting caught up on a bunch of stuff we have enjoyed (or notsomuch) this year, as I plan to get completely caught up on anything we tasted in 2020 before turning the page to next year.

Here we go!

We’ll start with BC wine.

And to the rest of the wine world we go!

Up next: One more update of 2020 wines, including what we drink tonight (SPOILER ALERT: It will be great), and then my annual Top 10 Wines of the Year list.

On the YouTube video front, for those of you who enjoyed my 3-year vertical of Culmina Gruner Veltliner, you can expect a 4-year vertical of Culmina’s Decora Riesling in the near future.

Stay tuned!

Happy New Year’s to all!

Adventures in Blind Tasting, Episode 3!

Yesterday, my wife and I sat down for another effort at a fully blind tasting. Here is the video. I would say we both did much better than last time although not perfect.

The wines included in the video, below.

As a bonus, to finish off the evening while we enjoyed a little SOMM TV, I pulled out another white for the wife to blind taste. This came from our wine fridges, not specifically from the 6 bottles that I bought for her to taste, but she still had no idea that we had this wine. I purchased this just about 2 weeks ago when I went to the BC Liquor Store specifically to stock up on “everyday drinking whites” which we were sadly lacking on. I put them directly into the wine fridges and she didn’t see what I bought.

She nailed the grape immediately (and to be fair, it’s not the toughest grape to identify), and after just a few minutes more, she came to the conclusion that it was from Alsace, from 2017, and “it’s that one with the red label”. She couldn’t remember the exact name of the producer.

I would say she did OK.

After seeing that she was exactly right, and I mean EXACTLY RIGHT, all she could say was “WHY WASN’T THAT ONE ON CAMERA?!?!?!?”. LOL.

One day, in the not-too-distant future, I hope to be as good at this blind tasting stuff as my wife is ­čÖé

Up next: Still lots of great stuff to catch up on. Stay tuned!

The Heartbreak Grape

“…its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and… ancient on the planet.”

-Miles, “Sideways”

Pretty tough to argue with that….especially if you are drinking the right Pinot Noir!

Pinot Noir was our “gateway drug” to the world of red wine. It took us a while to get really comfortable with Cabernet and Merlot (and don’t get me started on Malbec!!), but we could always find a good Pinot Noir, even very early in our journey into wine.

I talk a little bit about the Heartbreak Grape in my new YouTube video. Please check it out if you haven’t already!

Here are reviews of the two Pinots that I featured in the video:

As I mentioned in the video, I probably overrated this one slightly. I think 85-86 would have been more appropriate. Also, the region is incorrect, it’s not Burgundy, it’s a Vin de France.
This didn’t improve much over the 2+ hours that it was open. It is still tasty, but I might wait on opening any more of these for another year or so.

And, some reviews of a bunch of other Pinots we have enjoyed in the recent past, including an older vintage of the one above!

That’s it for today! Coming up next, a lot more non-Pinot-Noir wine to catch up on. Stay tuned!

Birthday week chugs along with lots of food, wine, football, and a few blind tastings!

Day 3 of Birthday Week brought us some lasagne, which I made with a new bolognese sauce recipe and the fresh noodles I had made earlier in the week.

Lasagne with homemade bun

So, my concern with the fresh noodles not standing up was unfounded. The texture was fantastic. The issue with the lasagne was the bolognese sauce, which wasn’t really much like sauce at all. It’s a great recipe (from the BC wine cookbook I showed earlier this week), but it’s not very “saucy”, and that took away a bit from the lasagne. It was still good, but my lasagne is usually amazing, and this wasn’t my best effort. Next time I will use the same recipe as the flavor that it imparts on the beef is wonderful, but I’ll double the amount of tomatoes to ensure it stays more like a sauce that befits lasagne.

To go with this, we went deep ‘into the cellar’ for a wine we had bought from Wine.com a couple of years ago. We’ve been aging it, and honestly it could have probably benefited from further aging. It’s a biggie.

It actually didn’t pair well with the lasagne, but the lack of sauce and preponderance of cheese would have made it a difficult pair anyway.

Day 4 of birthday week was a write-off, I just wasn’t feeling great. Not sure if it was just “Covid fatigue” or what…..but there have been days when I’ve felt really cooped up and this was one of them. For the most part, we are really lucky. The wife has always worked from home, we have everything we need…but from time to time, it would be nice to be able to go out again. Patience, I know….the vaccines are coming. It’s our job to make sure we are still alive to take them!

Day 5 got us back on track in a big way. Prime Rib night!

Now, I absolutely love prime rib, and the wife really dislikes it, so this was a treat for me. Having said that, it wasn’t just regular prime rib.

Prime Rib with a Morel Cream Gravy, Pureed Parsnips and Steamed Asparagus

The morel sauce made it much more palatable for the wife, and much less enjoyable for me! Not that it wasn’t good – it was – it was just unnecessary. Other than that, it was a lovely dinner which we paired successfully with a classic. I had originally reviewed this in 25 and at that time gave it a range of 88-91. It has definitely hit the high end of that range with a few more years.

After dinner, we decided to have some fun and do a little informal blind tasting, so the wife went a selected a wine for me in secret. I don’t actually even remember what I called, but I was nowhere close. This was a Napa Cab that didn’t taste much like a Napa Cab. I actually think I settled on an Argentinian Malbec. Not close.

This is generally a great value, one that we pick up from the BC Liquor Store just to use as a “drink now” Napa Cab while our more serious stuff ages. This was the first bottle we have aged for a few years, and it sure didn’t need it. Well, now we know. BTW for those of you of the ‘budget conscious’ variety, their Sonoma County Cabernet sells for just $21 at the BC Liquor Stores, so probably less than that in other places, and is always a decent wine. Nice value….generally a $20 Napa Cab would make you question your sanity!

Since our motto of “life is too short to drink OK wine” applied here, we moved onto something else. I picked one for the wife to blind taste. Oh, and let me tell you, my wife has been CRUSHING blind tastings lately. Before we get to tonight’s taste, here is one I blinded her on last week. Her call was “Gew├╝rztraminer from Alsace, 2014”. She was so disappointed when I told her that she was wrong; but then I had to come clean and confess that all she was wrong about was missing the vintage by ONE YEAR! Very impressive.

So back to the wine I chose tonight, which I knew for a fact she had never tasted. Not only had she never tasted this particularly wine, she had never tasted this varietal from this country. Never. So clearly she wasn’t going to get this right, but I thought we’d see how close she could get.

She was all around it; she had the old world for sure, she was close to naming it a Pinot Noir, but she knew it wasn’t from Burgundy and that led her astray a bit. Her final call was a 2014 Barolo. Not totally dissimilar from the actual wine.

Given that this was totally unfair and she couldn’t possibly know what a German Pinot tastes like, she did really, really well.

She then picked one more for me, and I got the region correct, and the vintage, but totally missed the grape. I was sure it was a BC Malbec. It seemed way too jammy to be what it really was.

Now we are up to date! Tonight’s dinner will feature one of our go-to chicken dishes, so I suspect there may be a delicious Chardonnay or something similar to report on tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Double dipping as “Birthday Week” rolls along with some more good food and wine on days 2 and 3!

Day two of birthday week featured one of our favorite meals: Steak and Spot Prawn Fajitas. I didn’t take a picture of it because, well, once you roll those bad boys up they look exactly the same as every other fajita, soft taco, and burrito in existence. There is nothing remarkable about my fajitas, except for the delicious marinade that the meat soaks in for several hours. Oh, and one more thing: They aren’t spicy at all. The wife cannot handle spicy foods.

Now, when I say that, people think I mean that she doesn’t enjoy chewing on Ghost Peppers. No, I mean she can’t handle spicy foods, AT ALL. I mean, jalape├▒o is totally out of the question, let alone anything really spicy. I almost murdered her once with a jalape├▒o corn side dish, and I didn’t serve her any jalape├▒o….just the corn that had sat on a baking tray in the general proximity of the peppers. I have never seen a human being turn that color of purple before, and I hope I never do again.

So, wine pairing with the dish are actually much easier with the lack of spice. First, one I picked up at the BC Liquor Store in Abbotsford earlier this summer (at the time, it was on sale for $29.99).

The second one from a BC Winery that I was totally unfamiliar with, but I have seen some on the Okanagan Wine Club VIP Facebook Group that are fans of this winery, so when I noticed it on the shelf at a local private liquor store, I figured I would give it a shot. It was good, but not so memorable that I would necessarily rush out to get a bunch more.

On Day 3 , I spent a lot of the day prepping yesterday’s dinner, as well as putting tonight’s dinner together. Today is US Thanksgiving and I plan to sit in front of the telly and watch some football for most of the day, so I will be thankful to have dinner all ready to go into the oven when it’s time.

I get a lot of great recipes from these two “cooking with BC wine books”, including the main part of last night’s dinner.

Gourmet Meat Loaf with a Caramelized Red Wine Glaze, Pureed Parsnips

Can meat loaf realllllllly be “gourmet”?? Before discovering this recipe, my answer would have been a resounding “no”. But this meatloaf is so good I actually crave it. And the pureed parsnips?? Fuggetaboutit. Just unreal. That recipe comes from Thomas Keller, owner and proprietor of The French Laundry, probably the most exclusive restaurant in California, if not the entire country. And SO EASY. They are cooked in water and cream, tossed into a blender with some butter, and voila!! You have one of the best side dishes you could imagine.

Wine pairing with this dish was really easy, any bold red wine would work beautifully. We went to a couple that we have enjoyed previously, and both worked with dinner as expected.

So, tonight is Day 4 of “Birthday Week”…. what is up on the menu tonight? Well, when I made the fresh pasta earlier in the week, I also made some fresh Lasagne noodles, so I’m going to try my first Lasagne with fresh noodles. I am sure it will taste fabulous, just not sure if the noodles will remain al dente or if they might get soggy. I guess I’ll find out tonight!

As for wine pairings, I guess it would be traditional to go to Italy for tonight’s selections. Lucky for me, we have some pretty awesome Italian wine ready to go. Stay tuned!

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!