Wednesday, September 24, 2014

september 23

September twenty-third. Yesterday was the first day of Autumn. Time seems to speed up through these waning days: colours change in rapid succession, first the yellows, then the reds, and soon the orange and browns. There is movement in the air. Northern winds are overtaking easterly breezes. Squirrels and birds scamper in a rush to stock up.

I too feel like I've been scampering about these days, not sitting still for too long, as though there's an urgency to being out and about.

I've been to The Moon Room where I drank an interesting Viognier and snacked on charcuterie while listening to a very funky soundtrack.

Right next door is Cardamom and Cloves. I vow, in future, to only buy my spices from Jodi. No more half empty boxes of cumin that get stale and tired on the shelf. A few ounce bag of Jodi's spices fits perfectly into one of my glass spice jars and when that's gone, I will hop over to Preston Street and get a re-fill. If you like to cook, it's a bit of a 'candy store'. The shelves are replete with colourful and exotic goodies.

Fauna might just be my new favourite place. They mixed a grapefruit/cucumber/gin number spiced with some black pepper that had me pulling out the juicer on Sunday in an attempt to replicate the cocktail. And the food, well, the food... oh my, the food.

Prince Edward County. I was fortunate enough to take jaunt through The County and as always, I didn't get to every vineyard I wanted or planned to visit, but what I did try was a testament to the growing sophistication of the fledgling industry there.

The wines at Three Dog Winery  are even better than last year's vintage and are reasonably priced. They deliver to Ottawa for free.

I went back to the The Devil's Wishbone Winery and the wine is still as lovely as it was last time I was there. I managed to come home with a Pinot Noir. The rest was greedily devoured in my hotel room while I watched late night TV.

Recently opened Domaine Darius has a few surprises. Wines made in an Alsatian style: white, full, aged. Delicious is all I'm going to say.

For now, I'm going to slow down; practice enjoying these last days when the sun can still be felt on the skin and, perhaps, enjoy a few glasses of Ontario wine in my backyard.

Eventually, it will seem like no-time when we are in the slow embrace of winter.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

summer drinking

As I look out the window today, it seems more like autumn than it does summer, and although I got up in the dark for the first time in months this morning - it's just the gray light due to the low cloud cover, right? it's not that the days are already getting shorter? - my calendar says it is STILL SUMMER people. And we are still drinking lots of the white stuff in our house. Actually, since I've had braces on my teeth, I've been sticking mostly to the white side of things. The gravelly feel of metal raking against my gums doesn't mix so well with raspy tannins in red wines. It's all a bit too much. Any day now I am going to start stockpiling bottles of Spanish, Bordeaux, Italian wines as the emancipation of my mouth grows near.

These are a few pictures from the last time we were at "our" little summer get away where the GOOD and WONDERFUL Dan and Akane live. It was balmy and welcoming. I picked blueberries, came home with a bucket-full of mizuna greens from the garden there; I swam, sat by the fire and feasted on paella.

We arrived packing a full box of cheap, quick-quaffing whites (because everything seems to go down so much more quickly when the sun is out and the day is long).

My friend Scott didn't like the Pinot Grigio from Pillitteri. He found it a little too bitter for his liking, but I thought it was good for the price. It was a bit like biting into an early summer peach and sucking on the woody nut after the juicy flesh is gone ($14.95). I liked the pinky hue of it. The Jacob's Creek is just plain simple drinking. No need for a glass, even: apple, vanilla, and none of that butterscotchy nonsense ($10.95).

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

bubbles and blur

Too much of this.

Results in this.

Sophora Sparkling Cuvée from New Zealand: 48% Pinot Noir gives it a little heft and an ever so slight pink hue. Fine bubbles with apple/grapefruit flavours, some toasty brioche notes, and a rose petal finish. A good deal at $16.95.

Friday, July 11, 2014

for the love of grape

Pinot Blanc, you are the pedestrian of grapes, the progeny of unlikely parents: the worshipped and adored Pinot Noir and the obscure and ancient Gouais Blanc.  Never given the premium sites, never the grape a winemaker would call a pride and joy, but you, Pinot Blanc, are one of my loves. Yes, that's right. In Jancis Robinsons' words, you are 'gently, rather than demandingly appealing,' and that suits me just fine.

In Alsace, Pinot Blanc is the stuff of everyday wines, sometimes mixed with it's cousin Auxerrois. Or, as is the case with this bottle, sometimes just left to be on its own. And we know from the label that this bottle is 100% Pinot Blanc grapes all of which have come from the Clos de la Tourelle site - which belongs to Chateau Ollwiller, now a cooperative of winemakers but where vines have been growing since the 13th century.

In the glass this is full and rich but balanced nicely with a crisp finish. Yum, with a minerally, smoky, apple nose. $16.95. It was part of a Vintages release and while I don't know about the rest of the province, there is still quite a bit of it floating around Ottawa.

Other Pinot Blanc wines to try: Konzelman from Niagara; Dunavar from Hungary; Gray Monk from British Columbia.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

how to read a wine label in alsace

I know, it seems like a simple thing: reading a wine label. Nevertheless, I was a little confused while in Alsace (sometimes it doesn't take much). I wasn't sure about the difference between village and vineyard on the wine labels. I wondered if Grand Cru were labelled differently than non Cru bottles. Can more than one winemaker have vines on a Grand Cru site? Can winemakers in one village make wine from a site in another village? And how do I know if what is in the bottle is sweet or not (hint: you need to drink it to find out)?

So, what looks pretty straight forward isn't always.

The Winemaker: is the person(s) or cooperative or nègociant who made the wine.
The Designation: is really just to signify if the wine is a Grand Cru, which means the grapes come from a site that has been designated Grand Cru. After centuries of watching what goes on in the vineyards these are the best of the best in terms of growing sites in the region. All the grapes in a bottle of Grand Cru must have come from the vineyard noted on the label.
The Vineyard: is always listed on a bottle of Grand Cru and may be on non-Cru bottles (if the grapes came from one exceptional site), but not necessarily (the grapes may have come from more than one site).
The Village: is not always on the front of the bottle even if it is a Grand Cru. Sometimes it is listed on the back label, and not usually attached to the village like on this label..
The Grape: 100% of the grape noted on the label is what's in the bottle. If it is not a Grand Cru bottle, the grapes may have come from differing sites (unless the site is listed on the bottle).
The Vintage: (not in the picture) is the year the wine was bottled.

 Note the wine village and the general wine region in fine print at the bottom of the label

Words like Réserve or Particulièr show up on labels and can mean any number of things: that the wine was made from select grapes from a prized (but not Grand Cru) site, or perhaps aged for a time in old oak.

Domaine on a label means only grapes from the winemaker's vineyard are allowed in the bottle.

Clos just means that the site where the vines grow is enclosed, probably with stone walls; this usually means an older site with older vines.

Vineyards and winemakers may be in different villages, so a winemaker in Barr can make wine from grapes grown on a grand cru site in Dambach-la-Ville. This is why sometimes knowing the difference between a village and a vineyard site helps a little when reading these labels.

Some winemakers do not use the Grand Cru designation on their labels. Basically some people are not happy with the way the designation is managed and feel they have a long enough history - designations only happened in 1975 - that their reputation allows them to stand apart. For example, neither Trimbach, nor Hugel and Fils use Grand Cru on their labels, but much of their wine comes from Grand Cru sites. In recent years however, regulations have been tightened in order to provide a better guarantee of quality.