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At the end of the day, vino is fun. Here is what I tried this weekend that titillated my taste buds:

2005 Qupe Ibarra – Young Viognier – $40.00 CDN from Marquis. This wine is from “Sideways” country. It is beautiful stuff with very little oak, pretty fruit flavours to go with your grilled summer halibut with a pesto crust (my dinner Friday night). This is expensive and it doesn’t have to be. See the previous blog to get a bit of an insight why it goes from around $20.00 USD to $40 bucks by the time it gets to the Great White North…

2005 Caymus Conundrum – $33.99 CDN, mass produced, from a family owned winery and it is yummy. Same folks who make the high end cabs I talked about in a previous blog. Can you guess what is in this blend? Probably some Viognier, Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, who knows, but it all works very well.

2006 Township 7 Pinot Gris – $21.99 CDN, at Liberty Wine Merchants. Folks, the bottle says only $155ish cases produced. It is good, worth checking out. As a side note, Township 7 makes a fantastic Merlot for $25.00 and a single vineyard Merlot in the $45.00 range. This is one of the better BC owned properties.

Kim CrawfordI know summer is almost over in Vancouver, but here are some lovely summer whites that I have tried this summer that are great. What is great about these types of wines is they tend to be consistent year in and year out.

D’Arenberg Hermit Crab – A blend of Viognier and Marsanne, you will think you are in the south of France when sipping this on your patio. PS, you have to go to Liberty Wine Merchants for this one.

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors Reserve Viognier – I have been having this by the glass at Earls, of all places. Goes great with Asian Cuisine.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc – A consistent Kiwi producer that the Wine Spectator consistently rates as a top value and top 100 wine. Perfect with salads and chilled seafood.

Poplar Grove Pinot Gris Yes, it costs $30 bucks at Liberty and BC whites should not cost this much, but it is so good and BC does Pinot Gris so well. See also Kettle Valley as a good alternative. Does anyone know why the Kettle Valley version is a faint shade of Pink? Halibut, tuna, crab cakes, scallops all come to mind.

No chardonnays this go around. I love em’ but sometimes variety is the spice of life!

I see on my scroll of links to Wine Spectator that they have given a favourable review to the 2006 Allen Scott Sauv Blanc from New Zealand. I can attest that this is good wine as I just had a bottle. In the US, this stuff retails for $14.00 USD. In BC, at the government run liquor store it sells for approx. $20.00-$22.00 CDN. Based on markup, taxes, exchange rate and so forth, probably not too out of line.

Last week after writing a work related exam for a diploma program I am taking, I stumbled out of SFU’s downtown campus to the wine shop across the street (you know who you are). Wine shops in BC are notorious for taking the government prices, which are already high, and adding 10% additional profit to them. This even though the government pricing has a profit margin built into the cost of the wine. So I expected to pay a little more at this shop. I bought a bottle of the Allen Scott and paid $29.00 CDN for it! I bought this before seeing the same wine at the government run liquor store a few days later. Additional markup was additional was 30-40% higher!

Moral of story, buyer beware in BC private wine and do not ever go to this certain wine shop. You will be gauged and ripped off.

As a side note, if you are looking for unique and interesting wines check out Marquis Wine Cellars on Davie Street. The staff are helpful and prices are at the set government listings…….

My good friend Raj Sodhi sent me a link today to CNN about making your own wine. Now, we are not talking about going to the local U Brew and getting a carton of juice. In the wine mecca of San Francisco a savvy entrepreneur has come up with a great idea.

He has developed a custom crush business, where the curious, serious, wine geek or adventurous can make as little as 1 barrel of wine. They provide everything, crush facilities, wine maker, access to quality grapes, bottling and storage facilities. The great thing about this is if you live in the USA, you do not even need to reside in San Fransisco. You can pay your fee, have the wine made with your assistance and have your finished product shipped to you if your state allows it.

Of course, in Canada we are not as forward and liberal thinking as our friends to south. After experiencing the gong show of what has become the Vancouver Wine Festival, it is clear there are many avid wine drinkers or over indulger’s if you will. Assuming that our archaic liquor laws will allow it, an entrepeneur in these parts could probably stand to start a similar business up in the Okanagan and be very successful with it. With wine prices continuing to go up in BC, this could be an opportunity to make quality wine and avoid the plonk of U Brew Its and escalating prices of BC wine.

Hmmmm, maybe the wine snob is onto something? So nobody steal my idea, ok? You can read more about the virtual vino service here.

Before I get into the wines I liked from the festival, a couple of overall comments on this year’s event:

It was too crowded, especially on Saturday night. At points, my wife, who is not very tall, was elbowed, pushed out of the way and cut in front of by unruly wine drinkers. The festival committee would do well to sell a few less tickets.

Australia proved to be a popular host, but many of the wines all tasted the same. While I liked many Aussie wines, far too many, at different price points, have that same jammy, fruit forward taste that is not “wine” in my opinion. It is tough to market and sell a $20.00 bottle of Shiraz when it tastes the same as the $13.00 Yellow Tail.

Nevertheless, here are my favourites, Aussie and otherwise. Prices noted all in Canadian Dollars. Some are available at the BCLS, some at private wine shops and well, some in just Australia. And… there were close to 200 wineries, so I did not hit every one.

Non-Aussie wines:

  • 2002 Bonterra McNab Biodynamic – $46.95 – I love organic wines
  • 2005 Concha Y Toro Trio Sauv Blanc – $14.00 – Summer Sipper
  • 2004 Michael David Earthquake Cab – $45.00 – BBQ Wine
  • 2004 Perrin et Fills “Les Christins – $24.95 – This is great stuff!

Aussie wines:

  • 2003 BVE E&E Black Pepper – $95.00 – It is worth $95 a bottle
  • 2002 BVE Ebenezer – $40.00 – the little brother of E&E
  • 2004 Bleasdale Frank Potts – $34.99 – A lovely Aussie Red Blend
  • 2003 Bleasdale Generations Shiraz – $41.99 – As Shiraz should taste
  • 2005 Vasse Felix Adams Road Chard – $24.99 – Lovely fruit

There were lots of others, but maybe keeping a few secrets is a good thing!

I see through my blog stats that someone made it to my blog looking for food to pair with Zinfandel.  While that is an easy one:  Pasta with red sauce, barbecue anything, stews, steak, lamb and, yes, Ahi Tuna and Salmon.

Here are some other things to think about:

White wines with lots of oak are tough to pair with food (see Chardonnay’s from Napa and Australia).  Try Pinot Gris, Sauv Blanc or Reisling instead.  Save your Chards for summer sipping or rich dishes with cream and butter sauces.

Red and fish go together, see salmon and pinot noir.

Champagne or sparkling wine matches with lots of foods, especially salads, light appy’s and fish dishes. 

Do not use bad wine to cook with.  All the awful things about the wine will be brought out in the cooking process.  Use a wine that you would actually drink.  That does not mean the expensive bottle of Burgundy you got for Xmas one year, but a pleasurable easy drinking wine, you would serve to guests.

Last, but not least, experiment, there are no rules and at the end of the day, pour the wines you like with the food you like, you will certainly be happy.

Vancouver Wine Festival Vancouver Wine Festival

There are many things that make Vancouver one of the best cities in the world: The people, the beauty, the food, the Canucks, and the WINE FESTIVAL! For those of us who are lucky enough to live in this beautiful city, we get a special treat every March after it has rained every day since Christmas.

This year the festival is very exciting as the “host” country is Australia. While I do not know the exact stats, I can tell you that Australian wine is very popular in these parts. Everything from “critter” wine (see that crap Yellow Tail) to high end Penfolds Grange sells well in this market. While one could argue that Aussie Shiraz and Chardonnay’s are all starting to taste the same and if you stick to the big producers, you might encounter this. There are plenty of Aussie wineries producing unique and fabulous wines.

I encourage you to check out some of the smaller wineries or wineries that may have corporate money backing them, but are left alone to their own devices. Try different varietals and blends. Things like Grenache, Reisling, GSM’s, Sauv Blancs, “Sticky’s” and Cab’s. There is more to Australia than Shiraz with Yellow Labels and Penguins on the bottle. Some of my favourite Aussie wineries that will be at the festival are:

So enjoy the festival, try some old favourites and something different and I look forward to hearing about your hits and misses.

I have decided to slip in a note before I go off on vacation.  Here is a list of some of my favourite wines, in no particular order.  Some are available in BC, some are not.  Some have specific vintages and may no longer be available (sorry) but you might want to track down a new vintage.  I think all of them cost under $100.00 CDN which is a good thing…..

  • Blue Mountain Pinot Gris – regular and strip label

I know you have to buy the stuff by the case and only from the winery, but can someone out there tell me if there is a better of bottle of BC white wine at under 20 bucks?  If you have never driven up to this winery, the views alone are worth it.  The owners are very nice people as well.

  • Ridge Lytton Springs – Zin field blend

This stuff is a little pricey at $50.00 CDN, but once you try a bottle of Paul Draper’s single vineyard field blend,  you will be converted.  He makes a “Sonoma 3 Valleys” blend as well for $33.00, both aren’t cheap, but a lot of the good things in life aren’t. Plus the winery is made of hay bales, is environmentally friendly and runs on solar power.

  • Meeker Vineyards – Anything!

I have to qualify this by saying you can’t get this winery’s product in BC or even Washington State.  So, go to Mail Boxes Plus in Blaine, pay $10 USD for a mailing address and join the “Meeker Tribe”.  They will send you wine at 20% off their list price, which covers some of the obscene duty at the border.  But will you really mind paying duty when you can buy the “Yellow Cab, Cab Sauv.” for $17 USD a bottle after discount and it is better than anything made in BC even after Mr. border man takes your duty?

  • Hartford Winery – Seascape Vineyard Piniot Noir

Everyone is talking about Pinot, but after drinking a bottle of Hartford Winery Pinot, you will see why.  This one is made in super small quantities from a vineyard that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.  The fruit in this wine is unbelievable and was by no means light tasting as some heavy red fans think pinot is.  You can however, buy the Sonoma Coast bottling in Private wine shops for $40.00.  Have it with some of our local salmon and understand why an entire book and movie were made based on this finicky grape.

  • Peter Lehman – Clancy’s blend 

 This Australian winery is in my top 10 as all of their products across every price point are great.  This shiraz blend is available at all BC liqs, costs 20 bucks, consistantly gets great reviews and will be a crowd pleaser at your next party.  I am really excited about the 1997 “Mentor” my brother brought home from his honeymoon in Australia for me.  I will share it with him and his wife the next time they come over for dinner.

The wine snob is out and if I can find a web cafe, I am may send a blog while on holidays.