Australian Wine Appreciation Society – what a great night!

You’ve never heard of the AWAS – Australian Wine Appreciation Society? Well, now you have, and you are going to thank me for it….especially if you live in the Lower Mainland.

Website

Facebook Group

This group was started in 1989 by a bunch of fun loving, Australian-wine loving folks. They hold around 10 events each year, and membership in this group costs only $40 per person or $70 per couple. The events run around $130 per person. Guests are allowed but will pay a premium.  In the past, they have been able to get some Principals from Australia to come to their events and present their wines (Wolf Blass attended one!). There is a lot more information and sign-up info at the website, above.

This past Friday we attended one such event at Glowbal, in Vancouver. The food was terrific and was paired with some absolutely world-class wine. We started with a range of appies they passed around and paired with a bubbly that I didn’t get info on (but it was quite tasty). To the main courses!

BTW I have not given accurate prices on the wines as I simply have no idea; unless I found the exact bottle on a website that gave a specific price.

Course 1:

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Ceviche – sea scallops, lobster, salted purple potato, pickled mango, citrus sabayon

I am not a ‘ceviche’ fan….I do not eat raw fish at all, and consuming the scallops was a bit of a challenge. Having said that, they were delicious.  It was paired with these two wines:

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Jacob's Creek 2006 Steingarten Riesling

Course 2:

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Braised Veal Cheek – fontina cheese tortellini, violet mustard, spring beans, chestnut foam, marrow vinaigrette

Another thing I never eat – veal. This was sublime…the veal cheeks were fall-apart tender. I didn’t need a knife. And some of the best tortellini I have ever tasted.

The wines were the same grape, but from very different areas of Australia and they were totally different:

Screenshot 2019-02-11 15.47.21Tyrrell's 2009 Stevens Vineyard Shiraz

I think I was in the minority, but I felt (and my wife agreed) that the less-traditional Shiraz, from the Hunter Valley, outperformed it’s Barossa counterpart in every way, particularly in the pairing with the food.

Course 3:

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Sous Vide Lamb Loin – lamb sweetbread, confit sun choke, pickled eggplant, cumin spiced lamb jus

You may sense a pattern here, but I never eat lamb either. This was the best I have ever had.

The wines:

Peter Lehmann 2009 VSV Ruediger Cabernet Sauvignon

Scarpantoni 2006 Brothers Block Cabernet Sauvignon

Course 4:

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Strawberry Caramel Cube – dulce & strawberry mousse, raspberry gelee, mint strawberry

You are thinking to yourself: this must be the wrong picture. There is nothing about this that screams strawberry. But it’s there, you just had to look for it.

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Voila.

The final wine pairing of the night wasn’t really meant to be a pairing at all, and we enjoyed the wine AFTER, not with, the dessert (which was delicious).

Henschke 2000 Mount Edelstone Shiraz

What a terrific evening, and a real treat to taste a 19 year old Shiraz that has been well cared for.

Whenever I go to an evening of wine tasting which spotlights a specific country, whether it be a wonderful event like this or our own theme nights, I always find myself thinking about the comparison between said country and wines from our own backyard. BC wine can be pretty special if you find the right bottles. Would wines from BC stack up against what we had tonight?

Well, there are a handful of BC dry Rieslings that would clobber the one we tasted tonight. Certainly I’ve never had a BC Semillon that would even compare to tonight’s beauty.

Cabernet? Probably not, although there are some very underrated BC Cabs.

Shiraz? Well, I’m not even going to try to make a comparison, because BC Syrah and Australian Shiraz are so different, they are hardly even the same grape.

We sat next to Tony, the AWAS President, and talked about these comparisons throughout the night. If our schedules allow, we are going to try to get together and have a full-on “Australia vs. BC” wine duel.

Who will win? Well, I have a pretty good idea, actually….but one prediction I can make without hesitation: It will be close!

Big thanks to Tony, Rick, Trent and Patti and the rest of the folks behind the AWAS for allowing us to join in on their little fun. It was a special evening, and we look forward to doing it again in the summer.

Next up for the blog: Our Argentina theme night, which we held at our place a couple of weeks ago, and so, so, so much random great stuff to update you on. Stay tuned!

 

Random BC stuff and some great Vegas wine in my first blog post of 2019!

Jesus. It’s January 31st and this is my first post of the year? I suck.

Anyway, let’s get right to it. A few random BC selections we’ve enjoyed recently to start, and some beautiful bottles we enjoyed on our recent Vegas vacation at the bottom….including a Pinot Noir to watch out for and a top notch Brunello!

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domainedelacote2012lacotepinotnoirkremserpfaffenberg2016reserverieslingluciencrochet2015lacroixduroysancerreterralsole2007riservabrunellodimontalcino

That’s it for today, but so much more to come, including our first “theme night” of 2019, hosted by the author, as we took our second bite out of Argentina!

Xmas wine and food is the best, because we treat ourselves to the best.

I sincerely hope all of my readers had a wonderful Holiday season; whichever Holiday you may celebrate: Hannukah, Christmas, Festivus…whatever it is, I hope you had some special time with friends and family. I certainly did.

Every year, we plan a “West Van shopping day”, which for the past few years has involved us staying at the Lonsdale Quay Hotel in North Van (where I was born and raised, and which will always be ‘home’ to me) and having a nice dinner on Friday night, then hitting Park Royal and surrounding stores on Saturday before heading home. This year, we decided to kick the luxury factor up about a dozen notches, and stay in downtown Vancouver, at the Shangri-La Hotel. To say that was a good decision would be an understatement, and this is definitely now going to be our yearly tradition.

The Hotel was fantastic in all regards, but they really outdid themselves at dinner. We dined at Market by Jean-Georges, their signature restaurant, and had one of the great meals of our lives. I am generally not a “take pictures of my food” guy, even when we are dining in a fancy restaurant, but these meals were plated so beautifully I had to.

 

My steak was one of the best I have ever tasted. Delicately seasoned, the meat really spoke for itself. My wife had short ribs, which is a favorite of hers, and she raved about the quality. We also both had a fantastic mushroom soup to start our meal, and shared a Chocolate Peanut Butter bar for dessert. All in all, this meal was perfect from start to finish.

The restaurant is classy without being overly pretentious, the service is terrific, and the food is of the highest quality (without being ridiculously overpriced). We will definitely be back.

But…this is a wine blog mostly, right? So where’s the wine? Well, we opened up the wallet a little (OK…a LOT…..$450) to try out this little beauty.

Tenuta San Guido 2015 Sassicaia

What an absolute treat. The restaurant had a decanter, of course, but keep in mind that if you are drinking this wine now, it needs to decant for 4-5 hours, not the time it takes to eat dinner. Although it was phenomenal, especially as the meal wore on, but it has SO much more to give. We were lucky to find a couple of these at Everything Wine in Langley, and they are heading to our cellar to enjoy them in a few years. This was #1 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2018, so finding it was not easy. In fact, we were unable to find it in any of the terrific wine stores we visited on our aforementioned West Van shopping day.

That was not the only terrific bottle of wine we enjoyed around the Holidays though. Here are a few more little gems we cracked open.

Sandrone 2001 Barolo Le Vigne

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Hmm, that seems to be as big as I am able to make the image on my new Mac. The images above were done on my old PC. Pardon me while I figure out this new computer. There may be a bit of a learning curve. For the most part, though, I love the Mac.

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Hmm OK that one is probably TOO big. I will see what they look like when I publish it. This new site is supposed to look much better on different devices (phones, tablets etc) so I hope that my readers are enjoying the new look.

OK that’s enough for today! Now it’s time to go and play with some of my new Xmas toys, like trying to make rice in my new Instant Pot. Enjoy the day, and hopefully you all have a wonderful New Year’s.

OH, speaking of New Years, we are planning an exciting vertical…..so keep your eyes peeled for that one shortly after NYE!

 

 

Okanagan Trip, Part XII, I’ve always wanted to visit a BC winery in the garage of a multi-million dollar home. Here’s my chance, at Kitsch Wines!

I’ll just leave this picture here without comment.

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So, yeah, that’s the home. The tasting room isn’t actually IN the home, of course, you go around the right side of the home to the back where they have set things up in the garage. The entire process, from winemaking to tasting to sales, takes place in this garage.

Our lovely host, Tanya, told us on numerous occasions that they “don’t know what the Hell we are doing”. LOL.

Well, if the wines are any good at all, chances are they are going to figure it out.

Tanya regaled of stories of membership parties where they unknowingly broke several bi-laws and several actual laws. She was a FANTASTIC host, and I hope she is there the next time we visit. Passionate people showing off your brand should be the first thing any new winery, or business for that matter, checks off their list.

But….was the wine any good?

Kitsch Wines 2017 Pinot Gris

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We had a terrific experience here and will definitely be back on our next journey up to this area. This is a winery to keep an eye on!

Next up: We finish off the Okanagan trip, finally, at Mt. Boucherie!

Also, have lots of other great stuff to tell you about, including a couple more really special wines. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Okanagan Trip, Part XI, a repeat visit to Spearhead! Or Spierhead! Or however you are spelling it these days…..

I guess too many people were calling this winery “Spy-er-head” so they decided to change the spelling to match the correct pronunciation of “Spearhead”.

In early 2018, it was announced that Spearhead had hired Grant Stanley, late of 50th Parallel Estate and Quails’ Gate, to be their GM/winemaker. Time will tell how much impact this will have on the quality of their wine. Spearhead specializes in Pinot Noir, and those who have followed Stanley’s career know that is a special grape to him.

To the wine!

Spearhead 2017 Riesling

Spearhead 2016 Chardonnay.PNG

Spearhead 2017 Pinot Gris.PNG

Spearhead 2016 Golden Retreat Pinot Noir.PNG

Spearhead 2016 Cuvee Pinot Noir

Spearhead 2017 White Pinot Noir.PNG

Spearhead 2012 Pursuit

So there you have it; we will check back with these guys in a year or two and see if Grant can make these wines even better once he really has time to put his stamp on the project. For the most part, they don’t need a ton of improvement.

Next up: The penultimate entry in this trip report, at a brand new player in our little game: Kitsch Wines!

 

Okanagan trip continues with a stop at always-reliable Tantalus!

Tantalus is a winery that “stays in it’s lane”…and by that I mean that they know what they do well, and they stick to it. And they do those things very, very well.

Riesling. Pinot Noir. Chardonnay. That’s just about it. And the results are almost consistently excellent. Let’s get right to it!

Tantalus 2017 Juveniles Chardonnay

Tantalus 2016 Chardonnay

Tantalus 2017 Riesling Lab

Tantalus 2017 Riesling

Tantalus 2015 Old Vines Riesling

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Tantalus 2016 Pinot Noir

Tantalus 2017 Riesling Icewine

 

So that’s it for today; we left here with a whole bunch of Riesling and some of the other stuff too. All of the Rieslings are in the cellar, to come out in the middle of the next decade. Lots to look forward to!

Up next: Three more entries to finish off the Okanagan trip report, starting at Spearhead!

Aloha to Hawaii, and Aloha to some pretty awesome wine!

So back to real life, after two simply spectacular weeks in the Aloha state. First, we had a 7 day cruise around the islands, and then 7 days at a top-notch resort in Waioloa, on the ‘Big Island’, about a 30 minute drive from Kona.

Just wow.

It’s not like I didn’t know how beautiful Hawaii was; I had been there once before, when I was a kid, but I remember very little. But I was shocked at the magnitude of the beauty, the friendliness of the people, the scenery….just everything. It was truly two weeks of stress-free heaven. Can’t wait to go back.

In order to ensure that we had some great wine to drink on the cruise and at the resort, we took 6 bottles in our luggage on the cruise, and I had a case of wine sent to the resort from wine.com. Here is a report on the stuff we enjoyed that I have not previously reviewed. Some top-notch stuff here!

First, some of the stuff we enjoyed on the cruise:

Francis Ford Coppola 2016 Black Label Claret

Robert Mondavi 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay.PNG

Turnbull 2011 Leopoldina Vineyard Cabernet Franc

And our resort wine!

Col Solare 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.PNG

 

Duckhorn 2014 Merlot.PNG

Robert Mondavi 2014 To Kalon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Hamilton Russell 2017 Chardonnay

Joseph Phelps 2016 Freestone Vineyard Chardonnay.PNG

DeMorgenzon 2017 Reserve Chenin Blanc.PNG

Yeah, we drank pretty darn well on our vacation! What a trip it was. It was so good it’s actually rather shocking that we came back!

Next up: I’ll continue on the Okanagan trip report at Tantalus, and I’m going to try to get a post up this weekend with recommendations for some great Xmas gift wine at reasonable prices. Stay tuned!

Okanagan Trip, Part IX, starting another big day of tastings,at CedarCreek Estate Winery!

One of the first wine clubs we ever joined (second, I think), CedarCreek always delivers good value for the price point. We are always treated like family here.

We almost always make it a point to eat in their terrific restaurant; but they are undergoing a huge renovation to the restaurant and tasting room, so today’s meal was actually served to us outside in a large tent set up for such occasions. The quality of the food did not suffer one bit with the move. It was a wonderful meal.

To the wine!

We tasted more than that, but a few of them were the same vintages as we tasted on our last visit here so no need to report on those again.

Very much looking forward to our next visit here, when the chaos of the construction is over and their brand spanking new tasting room, and restaurant, are fully functional.

Next up: Up the hill to the home of some damn fine Rieslings, among other things: Tantalus!

Quick note: We are off on vacation in a couple days, so it’s likely my next blog post won’t be until early-mid December.

Okanagan wine? Check. Shall we also visit California? Check. Portugal? Chile? Oregon? Let’s just go all around the world in this update, shall we?

Oh boy, some good stuff today, and some WORLD CLASS stuff as well. Let’s get right to it, and we’ll start close to home in the Okanagan!

How about a quick trip to Portugal, and a trip way, way, way back in time?

Did someone say Bordeaux??

We’ll stay in France but head up to the North East, Alsace!

Domaines Schlumberger 2014 Grand Cru Riesling.PNG

A quick little jaunt to South America, where you can really find some bargains if you look hard enough.

One well-known producer from New Zealand, where the Dingo probably ate your baby (what, that’s Australia? Never mind).

A couple nice bottles from a very well-regarded producer of premium wine in Oregon:

And just a touch farther South, to California. I promised two bottles that make my “best of the best” list, and here they are!

Man, those last two bottles have my mouth absolutely watering. Two very, very special bottles of wine. Maybe they aren’t “everyday” wine at those prices (although we have been known to open up those kinds of bottles on “Two Bottle Tuesday”), but wine like that is such a treat, no matter the occasion.

Next up: Back to the Okanagan trip, and a lovely tasting at Cedarcreek!

Okanagan Trip, Part VIII, the Lake Country portion of our journey comes to an end with a tasting and dinner at 50th Parallel Estate!

Our third visit to 50th Parallel and we have thoroughly enjoyed the first two visits. The staff is always top-notch, and this time was no exception.

Since our last visit, they have opened up a beautiful new tasting room and restaurant!

Called Block One (menu and reservations available at the link), we were yet again treated to some absolutely fabulous service. Without being asked, they brought my wife a blanket as we were waiting for our table.

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Yes, it was THAT FREAKING COLD in the Okanagan, in August! Good grief.

Our server was fantastic, the wine was fantastic, the food was fantastic – highly recommend you check it out when you are in the area. Lake Country has a large number of great winery restaurants, considering there are not that many wineries there!

To the wine!

50th Parallel Estate 2017 Pinot Gris50th Parallel Estates 2016 Gewurztraminer

50th Parallel Estate 2016 Riesling50th Parallel Estate 2017 Riesling50th Parallel Estates 2015 Pinot Noir
50th Parallel Estates 2015 Unparalleled Pinot Noir

Another terrific experience at 50th Parallel, I can’t imagine any reason we would go to Lake Country and not make it a point to stop in here…..and eat here!

Next up: I’m going to catch you up on a ton of random stuff we’ve been drinking. Some of it Okanagan, some of it not, but all of it worth talking about. And, we are going to be adding a couple more to the “best of the best” list, so don’t miss it!

After that, this Okanagan trip will continue on Day 3, in and around Kelowna and West Kelowna.