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 🙂

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 “Gewürztraminer 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, jalapeño is totally out of the question, let alone anything really spicy. I almost murdered her once with a jalapeño corn side dish, and I didn’t serve her any jalapeño….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!

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!