Marketing Graffitti and Argentine Wine


What does graffiti have to do with wines?  We will get there in a minute or two. There are two new wines from Argentina listed at the LCB and some local stores. This is not normally noteworthy. The way these wines are being put to market, is however, a little unusual. It even involves putting graffiti on a wall in Toronto.
The wines first. These wines are made by Graffigna, Argentina’s second oldest winery, established in 1870.  Graffina is located in the San Juan Valley, which is at high altitude, and has a hot dry climate. The region is north of Mendoza and borders on Chile.
The first wine is a 100% Malbec,  aged in both French and American oak. Here are the tasting notes from the winery.
Color: deep red with violet highlights.
Aromas: of great complexity with very ripe dark
berries, a touch of black pepper and spicy fragrances.
Palate: well integrated delicate ripe tannins and
complex finish with hints of coffee, vanilla and toast.
Suggested Retail around $14.00.
The second wine is a Pinot Grigio. The following tasting note is from the LCB site and we have included the SKU to make it easier to find. We did find this much fuller than most Italian versions.
This is a great value Argentinean Pinot Grigio with spice, pear and ripe citrus aromas on the nose. It is slightly fuller in body than most Italian versions, which makes it a great white wine for meat.
SKU: #915918
Legacy Liquor Store is doing a tasting of these wines Dec 26th, try them out before you buy.
Now for the graffiti part. The importer and the winery have hired a street artist, ‘Jaz’, to paint a mural on a wall in Toronto. To quote the press release,
“Jaz’s vibrant work can be seen on the streets of cities around the world, from Madrid to Montevideo. With this launch event, Graffigna brings together two of Argentina’s most powerful cultural expressions for Canadians to enjoy”. The importer toured the country with paintings from this artist to showcase both the wines and the art. We will let the art speak for itself, as we do not know how many points to give it. Oh right, you don’t give points to works of art. We attended this tasting in the wine room at Cin Cin on Robson.


Posted in argentina wines, food and wine pairing, Malbecs, South American wine, wine tasting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wine and Climate Change or don’t sell the ranch quite yet

Dad, I don’t know what you’ve heard about global warming, but it looks like we might be making a mistake selling the ranch. I know cattle prices are down and all, but apparently a rock ranch might have some value about now.

There was some big study done on Climate Change, and the BC government is thinking BC can grow grapes somewhere besides the Okanagan. And they’re spending money – big money – to find out where. Fifty grand, Dad, and another forty grand from the feds – all you gotta do is plant a few grapes to see which ones survive.

Those orchard guys sure picked up on this wine thing early. Did you know they’re getting a hundred thousand dollars an acre for grapes? Sure beats a couple of grand for grazing land.

Just think, no more dealing with cattle – all we’d have to handle are busloads of tourists lining up to taste our wine. Yeah, I guess the cattle prods might still have some use after all. And how’s this? We could change the barn into one of those rustic tasting room. Yup, you can charge ’em for the tasting. Those Yanks been doing it for years – never give away anything for free.

Maybe we can hire us that cute waitress from the bar to work the tasting room. No, I don’t think she needs to know anything about wine. Hey, I could be one of those wine geeks selling hundred dollar bottles of wine. Yes, Dad, people really do spend a hundred bucks on one bottle – sometimes even more.

No, I have NOT been drinking too much this morning. When it gets too hot for California to grow all those Napa Cabs, someone’s going to have to do it. And if it gets cold, we can just make ice-wine. No, it’s a tad more complicated than just adding ice cubes. You gotta let the grapes freeze right on the vine. Remember all those veggies we lost years back? Hell, no problem now. Might have a problem getting the boys off the horses and teaching them how to prune the vines – but oh well.

I checked it out, and there’s even some place in France that’s got just about as much rock as we do – Shaaa-toe-nuff de something. We can hire us one of those French guys to show us how to make wine with lots of points. You know points – up to a hundred. Nah, I haven’t a clue what the difference between 92 and 93 points would be either. But the more points you get, the more money you get – and we want to be selling our stuff for big bucks.

Yeah, Dad, it probably is a good thing they don’t give points to Rye and beer, might drive the price up. Anyway, let’s keep an eye on this. Hell, maybe we’ll finally be able to get rid of them snowshoes too.

Okay maybe a little to much humor for  such a serious subject. To the folks at home in ranching country up north, have a look at developing a new business plan. A couple of videos below to shed a little more light on the subject.



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Absinthe the “Green Fairy” or Death in the Afternoon”

Ah! the Green Goddess! What is the fascination that makes her so adorable and
so terrible?  Aleister Crowley

Sometimes known as the ” Green Fairy”, “Green Witch” and the “Green Devil”. Absinthe is a making a comeback, but there is a great deal of misinformation on what it is and  what our little green fairy supposedly does. We will get into the hallucinations later. Absinthe is a high alcohol spirit; since it does not have added sugar it is not considered a liqueur. It can be colorless or can have the traditional green color, which is derived from the chlorophyll in the herbs used, Chlorophyll acts almost like tannins in a wine, creating a drying sensation at the side of the mouth. The green version is known as “la fee verte

Like gin, cold compounding can be used to make a lower quality Absinthe, by the addition of essences and color to pure alcohol. There are so called Absinthe coming from Eastern Europe that is made this way. I have had some that where totally undrinkable. Some call it assbinthe.

Redistilling with grand wormwood, anise and fennel and other botanicals produces a proper Absinthe. Grande wormwood gives a slight bitter taste, fennel contributes licorice and sweetness. Anise gives the distinctive and defining flavor. Distillation integrates the flavors, giving a more uniform flavor profile.

Absinthe has a reputation of being psychotropic because the thujone in grand wormwood. Studies have shown that there is just not enough of it create a psychotropic reaction. There is also an urban legend that Absinthe acts on the same area of the brain as THC does.  Once again an other study shows that it does not. Our little green girl is not as hazardous as her press makes out. By the way sage and rosemary also contain thujone.

Where did all the railing against Absinthe come from, and why our little green fairy was banned. In the mid eighteen hundreds Absinthe was cheap and was eating into the French wine market. The French wine industry to protect its profits, came out with a campaign, somewhat like prohibition to outlaw Absinthe.  It used the press to vilify the product any way it could. A quote from the period “ Absinthe makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country.”  Now, don’t you just  want to try a glass of whatever it is that can cause all that mayhem and destruction? The French wine industry used its political might with lawmakers to ban Absinthe altogether. Our little green girl just about disappeared.

Abinthe also had a reputation as being bohemian, and a drink of deranged poets and artists. The little fairy kept some strange company. Toulouse Lautrec was known to drink six bottles a day. Lautrec also invented the earthquake, three oz of cognac and three oz of Absinthe. If you drink that much of a high alcohol spirit, possibly you are going to get a little deranged. Lautrec and others where pointed out as examples of what Absinthe could do to the mind. Oscar Wilde had a quote “Absinthe has a wonderful colour, green. A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world. What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset’ This was after drinking all day.  Hemingway was quoted in letter  “Got tight last night on absinthe and did knife tricks. Great success shooting the knife underhand into the piano. The woodworms are so bad and eat hell out of all the furniture that you can always claim the woodworms did it”

In 1912 Absinthe was banned in the US. France finally banned it in 1915. However in 1972 the law was changed in the US,banning products containing more than 10 milligrams of thujone. It just took awhile for everyone to figure out that most Absinthes have less than 10 milligrams of thujone. Once everyone found out through testing the thujone level in most Absinthes, and being below the limit it became legal. The green fairy made a comeback.

The traditional way of serving Absinthe is a wonderful ritual. A slotted spoon is placed over a glass, a sugar cube on the spoon and water dripped over the sugar cube. An effect called louching happens, the Absinthe turns cloudy. Some of the spoons are works of art in the own right and have become collector’s items.

Remarkably in British Columbia there is no upper limit on thujone levels

We have a highly recommend Absinthe made in British Columbia called Taboo. As a side note Canada has never had a ban on Absinthe.

Death in the Afternoon

I like Hemmingway’s recipe so I will quote him directly.

“ Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly. I heartily recommend drinking less than five of these, and you may also try pouring the absinthe on top instead; some brands of absinthe will float for a time on the Champagne, and this makes a nifty visual effect.”

Be careful with knives if you are having more than one.

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Ponderings on Points, Amarones, and Arias


I am taking a few day off from work, so tonight I feel justified in picking something special to celebrate a clean desk and being home. A bottle of Amarone is definitely appropriate. The bottle I decide on is an Amarone Negar 1961. Yes the vintage is right, 1961.

It was a great year for Italian wine in 1961 – rain and sun in perfect balance. John Kennedy was president of the USA. The Berlin Wall was under construction. Maria Callas was 38 and at the height of her career. Sophia Loren was starring in El Cid, and I was all of nine years old.

The label is a little worn and torn. The fill level looks promising – still mid neck – although there is a little sediment. The cork seems to be okay – solid and removes easily without crumbling. Should I decant and risk adding too much air? I pour a glass to see what has happened to this 40-something wine.

The color is amazing – dark red, with a little orange and brick red on the rim. The nose is equally remarkable – still lots of fruit left on the nose, black cherry with truffle, and a little sherry oxidization odors in the background. A few swirls of the glass and the oxidative aromas disappear.

The taste and finish on this wine is surprising, still full of black cherry, truffles, and forest floor with a finish that lasts for minutes. The tannins are like silk, and there are not enough descriptors to describe the mouth feel and full body. The acidity must be holding this wine together.

Now, there is a caveat to this story. I love Amarone, so there is a built in basis here. But points and ratings have no relevance to this wine. It is, quite simply, a great wine. It is like the Callas aria playing on the stereo – powerful yet filled with grace and finesse. It is an Amarone at its heights. Yes, 1961 was a good vintage year for Italian wines.One bottle left.

This Amarone is a perfect example of why I  hate the point system. Is this a 98 or only a 97 point wine? After all, how do you define the difference of a single point? Or has this venerable liquid actually achieved the enviable position of 100 points despite its initial hint of oxidation? It is only two additional points after all.

And if we were to rate it as a 98, would that make it comparable to the 2004 Cabernet Blend IX Estate from that received a 98 point nod from Robert Parker? Hmmm, let’s see. A three-year old blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot from Napa Valley versus an Italian Amarone with almost half a century of love, care, and passion in its provenance. Somehow, the comparison just doesn’t work – although I suppose one day, some scientist, somewhere in the world, will come up with a formula that proves you can actually make a meaningful comparison between apples and snow peas.


Posted in Amarone, italian wines, Maria Callas, Parker Points, Sophia Loren | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What is in My Gin (Gin Botanicals)


What is in My Gin and Pink Gin Cocktail

Have you ever wondered how your favorite Gin gets its flavor?  Two very important components of this process are the various types of stills to choose from and the method Hendricks Stillused for adding flavor components. I will be following up with an article on the very different types of still used. For now, there are two basics methods to add flavor, one good the other not so good. Adding flavor compounds or essences to pure ethyl alcohol produces compounded gin. Cheap and not that great, compounded gins are not allowed to put “distilled gin “ on the label. That nasty lemon flavored gin from your youth was probably a compounded gin. No need to get into this any further

Redistilling neutral spirits with juniper and other botanicals makes a true distilled Gin.  Every producer of gin has their own recipe, and therefore its own flavor profile. Botanicals are natural herbs, spices, peels, seeds or even rose petals. Each botanical brings different notes to the flavor profile.

Juniper legally is the only required botanical, Juniper adds some pine notes and lavender and a touch of heather.

Coriander is the second most commonly used ingredient and is used in a most of the premium gin brands. Spice pepper and some floral notes  predominate,depending on the source. Indian coriander has the most citric notes. Grains of Paradise also lends peppery and a chocolate note.

Angelica root lends a musty earthy note, but in a good way.  It balances the floral notes with its dry woody taste as well.  Orris root has violet and scented notes.  Cassia brings cinnamon tones to the mix. Anise is sometimes used for the slight licorice taste in some premium Gins.  Throw in nutmeg, fennel, vanilla and cloves as well.  The possible list of ingredients can be numbered in the hundreds.

Some producers use orange and citrus peels. Different peels are chosen to add different flavors. Citrus peels also work well with coriander.  Most of the producers try and keep their recipe as house secret, but if you know the basic profiles of the botanicals, you can figure out which botanicals are used.

Hendricks uses most of the botanicals as well as cucumber and rose. Bombay Sapphire as well as the common ingredients also uses Spanish lemon peel, and Cubeb Berries.These  berries have pine notes, which I taste as a background after taste. Tanqueray does not disclose their recipe other than listing, coriander and angelica. They are not quite so reluctant a let you know that Number ten has white grapefruit and chamomile. Plymouth Gin is not so shy in listing their mix of botanicals, they use fewer junipers and more sweet orange and lemon peels  ,which add more essential oils, along with the usual suspects of orrisroot and angelica. The citrus gives Plymouth its full-bodied fruity taste.  Aviation Gin as well as the regular stuff lists Indian Sarsaparilla as well which works well in some cocktails.

I think I need to mix a drink after all of this.


4 Drops of Angostura Bitters

2 Oz Gin

Swirl the bitters in a chilled Martin glass; add the gin, and a twist of lemon for garnish. Plymouth gin was the traditional brand for this cocktail but Hendricks works with the bitters as well. This drink was supposedly a favorite of the British Navy in the nineteenth century. There is the out form of this cocktail where the bitters are discarded after the swirl in the glass.


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Ode To Terrior and Tasting Notes


I hate tasting notes. Okay, maybe that’s too harsh. I dislike tasting notes – intensely.

Actually, I’ve written hundreds of tasting notes. I’ve written them on restaurant coasters, on the back of business cards, on program guides, and on god only knows what else. I have also spent many evenings in class writing tasting notes and have committed to memory the WSET systematic approach – I’m sure I can now write a note so anyone who has taken the WSET program would be able to pick out the wine I’m describing.

And I read other people’s tasting notes. Books on evaluating wine fill my bookshelves – lots of pages and hundreds, more likely thousands of hours of reading. I peruse glossy wine magazines, newspapers, and the Internet although many of those entries make me want to cry – bad grammar and a total lack of information. I’ve discovered Wine Spectator even has a game: match the wine with the tasting note plus a silly tasting note generator – fun for a while but the novelty wears off soon.

The problem with most tasting notes is that they don’t actually tell you anything. They don’t put the wine in any context. Is it typical of its type or region? Is it a wine for sipping or one that needs food to be enjoyed more fully? And is there something horribly wrong with saying whether you actually liked it or not?

Most tasting notes are all very politically and technically correct. You put the wine in a glass – preferably the same ISO glass every time so you have a benchmark for comparison. You go through the list for whatever system you use, dutifully comparing what’s in your glass against a series of standards. At the end of the exercise, you allocated points or stars or say it is – or isn’t – technically correct.

Sure, what you’ve just written will remind you, at a later date, whether the vintage you just had tastes like black pepper and blackberries, whether it has some sweet vanilla overtones, or perhaps the zing of lime. But when you get right down to it, most of your efforts have basically been useless.

Where in all these notes is the soul of the wine, the “Ahhhh” that is a truly outstanding wine? Where in these notes is the terroir, the art of the winemaker, the joy and pleasure?

Give me some indication of how the wine affected you. Did you love it or hate it? Was it perfect for sitting on the front porch on a sunny afternoon? Would you buy it for your wife or for yourself? Is this a wine you would take to Mom’s for dinner?

The notes I write for myself tend to descriptors and adjectives that aren’t techno or politically correct. They are about the people I had the wine with, the food or the music that went with a particular bottle of wine. My favorite Amarone I describe as “Sophia Loren dressed in silk and eating black cherries.” Another I describe as “Callas hitting a perfect high C in a Rossini opera.”

Emile Peynaud
, writing in his book The Taste of Wine, is able to put techno and art together. He talks of how Bordeaux tasters describe their wines with references to their mistresses, while those from Burgundy use analogies about their wives. Alas, this style of comparison is no longer seen as “correct” although his techno notes still set a benchmark in the wine world.

Most of the wines I drink for pleasure are ones that come from a special “someplace” or are made by small wineries. I guess I am looking for the art of the winemaker. Maybe one day I will find a way to put that in a tasting note.


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The Great Champagne Quandary: An Afternoon with Pol Roger


Do we really need a celebration to have Champagne? Why is it that typically there has to be a wedding, birthday, or New Years to pop open a bottle of bubbly? Champagne pairs well with food, so why not open a bottle simply while prepping dinner?

Somehow, though, most people feel as if they need some rational to reach for a bottle of bubbly.

Mind you there have been some who could find excuses easily. Coco Chanel is said to have only drunk Champagne on two occasions – when she was in love or when she was not. Churchill started his day with Pol Roger – a bottle a day just to get things going. Someone, I’m not sure who, said you needed Champagne as much in defeat as in victory.

Sunday, I decided that being a rainy and dark   afternoon was reason enough to have a bottle of Champagne. But not just any bottle, the day merited a great bottle of bubbles.
Surprisingly, I experienced a nagging sense that I was being decadent or doing something over the top. There were, after all, accomplishments and achievements over the last few months that I hadn’t yet taken time to acknowledge or celebrate. To hell with it, it was Sunday afternoon and I was alive and well – that was reason enough.

Now all that was over with, the question became what to have? Something with just a little edge – a Blanc de Blanc with a little power to it. I considered the two bottles of Salon but they need a little age. I’m also still using the notion that they are investments to justify the inclusion in the cellar.

Since there were no other bottles of Champagne in the wine fridge or in the rack, it was off to the liquor store. On the way, I still had to fight off that annoying sense of needing a reason.

After exploring the latest new arrivals at the liquor store, I found a bottle of Pol Roger vintage Blanc de Blanc – a 1999. All the grapes from this cuvee are from grand cru vineyards in the Cotes de Blancs. All the bottles have undergone hand remuage. The 1999 vintage was warm, and the rain came at the right time. Good vintage, good grapes, good producer. This was just what I was looking for. By the time I got home, the nagging went away.

The bottle went into the ice bucket immediately, and after what seemed to be a suitable interval to show some decorum, the bottle was opened.

The bubbles were very fine and persistent to the eye, a wonderful light gold color. The nose was at first toast and almonds, then after a few moments floral notes started coming to the forefront with a secondary note of iodine or seashore if you prefer. All good so far, in fact the nose was quite wonderful.

On the palate the acidity was well balanced by the 10.5 grams of residual sugar. The palate as well started out toasty, but not as yeasty as I’d expected. The floral got a little more specific and became all violets. The bubbles remained persistent in the glass. The finish was long, and it had a nice edge right till the end of the bottle. Seafood – oysters especially – would be a good food match.The Pol Roger went well Kettle Valley Potato chips by the way.

And there’s no question that being Sunday afternoon was reason enough to have this excellent Blanc de Blanc.

Retail was $88 at the LCB, but this Champagne seems to be available for around $80 on the net.
I’ve heard a quote of uncertain origin – in victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it – attributed to Winston Churchill but more often to Napoleon. Who knows, perhaps it was a grand case of plagiarism.

However, one of my favourite quotes is from the grand lady of Champagne herself – Lily Bollinger. When asked when she drank Champagne, her famous reply was:

I only drink Champagne when I’m happy… and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – I unless I’m thirsty.

Frank Haddad CSW CSS   thanks to every one who has subscribed so far. Blanc-de-Noir48KAV6DA4U5Y


Posted in Blanc de Blanc, Champagne food pairing Champagne, coco chanel, Lily Bollinger, pol roger, remuage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wines of the Week

Castillo de Monseran, Grenacha, Carinena DO Spain $9.99

An excellent wine for the price point. Typical Grenache flavors of red berry fruit with some black cherry Very juicy, a little spicy with good acidity, easy to drink. Good food wine. Alcohol 12.5% LCB SKU 197806 / 831906002788

Domaine St Damien 2009 Cote de Rhone “Bouveau” $20.00

Another good value for the price point and being from the Cote de Rhone. A blend of Syrah and Cinsaut and a little Grenache. Blue and red fruits and licorice. Very full-bodied. No filtering and no fining. Parker points 90-92.  Alcohol 15.1%. From  Marquis Wines

Vieux Telegraphe 2006 Chateaneuf de Pape $74.99

This is just so good This family has been making wines for over a hundred years. Grenache noir 65%, Mourvèdre 15%, Syrah 15%, Cinsault, Clairette and others 5%. Old vines and hand picked. No fining.  Dark red to ruby color.  Spicy with incense, lavender, pepper, and copious quantities of black cherry and raspberry fruit. Full-bodied. No fining. Parker points 90-93. Alcohol 14.5%.

LCB SKU103713 / 3374830011039 or Marquis Wines

Posted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cote de Rhone, french wine, Grenache, Vieux Telegraphe | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1982 Vignaveja: An Elegant Old Vintage


Old wines are always something of a mystery. Case in point, the bottle of 1982 Vignaveja we’re about to uncork. What is going to happen when I open this vintage? Will it be dead, oxidized, or will it be a wonderful old bottle full of life still?

This particular bottle is actually Susan’s – a semi bribe and pay back for some editing she did for me at very last minute. The “fee” was two older bottles of wine from my cellar preferable at least one of them a Gaja that she’s always wanted to try. However, she very graciously decided to share this bottle with me. Wonderful woman.

There where problems from the start. A very long cork that really didn’t want to allow itself to be removed from the bottle where it had rested for quite sometime – almost 27 years to be exact. With a lot of work, we finally managed to remove the cork although in many pieces – many, many very small pieces.

As we decanted the wine – surprisingly there was just a little sediment in the bottom of the bottle – a wonderful smell of fruit and leather filled the room. The color was a deep dark red, also very surprising. But would it hold up? Sometimes with older wines, I’ve had them die as soon as soon as they get hit with air.

The colour, too, was amazing for its age – a deep red with a brick red rim and no hints of orange or brown at all. How long would the color last?

Mentally, I was trying to do a WSET tasting note – impossible. Each sip, every glass changed by the minute. The first glass started out as dried roses, dark cherry, and vanilla. Half way through, a little bit of smoky notes made an appearance. The second glass became all about leather and tar, truffles and forest floor. There where still some tannins, but with the corners rounded off, then pure silk. The acidity was present all the way through. Very long finish, quite amazingly long, in fact. The third and final glass started out all truffles, mushrooms, saddle leather, and earth. Then suddenly, with an ounce or so left in the glass, it died and became all sherry notes and acid.

Still, there’s no question this was an amazing wine – Nebbiolo (seen left) again showing remarkably well for its age. Apparently it originally sold for less than $30 although I could find very little about this vintage on the web. Wine Spectator rated the 1983 at 94 points. If any one has any information on this wine, we’d love to hear about it.
Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of ItalyThe New Italy: A Complete Guide to Contemporary Italian Wine
Susan’s Note:

Okay, sure I’ll often do Frank’s editing for free but this one was a bit “extreme” – half an hour to take care of some promotional material that should have been at least a four hour job – so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to snag the Gaja I’ve had my eye on for over a year. Success at last.

But I have to confess that somehow this wine would have been much diminished if drunk solo. Just like the older Barolo that will likely be the cost of his next extreme edit. Frank Haddad CSW,CSS and Susan BoyceBlanc-de-Noir


Posted in 1982 Vignaveja, Gaja, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Tasting Notes, WSET | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Night of Film,Music and Wine

The Vancouver Latin American Film Festival is holding its annual fundraiser, A Night of Film, Music, and Wine, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (November 17) at Granville 7 Cinemas (855 Granville Street). A screening of Mercedes Sosa Cantora, un Viaje Intimo ( Cantora, An Intimate Journey ), a documentary about the acclaimed recording artist, will be embellished with wine, hors d’oeuvres, door prizes, and live music by Latin guitarists Joaquin Ernesto and Pancho y Sal. Tickets are $20, available at

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Bordeaux at House Wines


The other night, I attended a tasting hosted by the ladies of House WinesMichaela Morris and Michelle Bouffard. If you’re a Wine and Spirit Education Trust or an International Sommelier Guild student, this is an inexpensive way to practice your tasting notes. If your intention is to taste an array of wines and do a comparison of different styles, it’s a venue I’d recommend since you get to try new wines without having to spring for the whole bottle.
The evening was built around Bordeaux blends. The Bordeaux AOC allows for the following red grape varieties; Merlot (shown right), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec,

Petit Verdot, and Carmenere meaning a Bordeaux is a wine with any of these grapes blended together.
The price range of the wines varied widely, peaking with the 2004 San Leonardo Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT from Italy at $110. The opposite end of the spectrum was represented by the 2008 Trivento “Reserve” Cabernet Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina and cost a mere $13. The British Columbia entry was the 2006 Mission Hill Compendium VQA priced at $40, a wine that compared very well with all the foreign competition. The value wine of the evening was also the only white, a Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Blanc AOC coming in at $14. This wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
The event was a great value with 12 wines on offer for $40. The next tasting by House Wines is on November 9th and is titled an Ode to Gernache. This should be a great evening as Grenache encompasses so many different styles. Hope to see you there.
Susan’s note: One thing you can be sure of with any of Michelle and Michaela’s tastings, they make learning fun and you just never know what surprises they’ll have in store for you when it comes to the wines you taste. I mean honestly, don’t these two ladies look like they’re having fun? I wasn’t able to attend this one, but you can be sure I’ll be on board at the Grenache tasting. Frank Haddad CSW CSS and Susan Boyce


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A Litte Bit About Grenache

Grenache grapes from Santa Barbara California

Image via Wikipedia

You gave to feel sorry for poor Grenache. It has an identity problem and very rarely gets any billing.This grape is a little wild and some times you don’t even know when you are drinking it.

Grenache Noir, as it is known in France is called Granacha Tinta in Spain. It can also be called Cannonau in Sardinia, Alicante in some parts of France or Aragon, Aragones in Spain. Grenache can be called Lladoner, Uva di Spagna, Tentillo, Tinto and Bois Jaune. Garnacha Tintorera is not Grenache at all.  Garnacha Tintorera is really Alicante Bouschet, which is not the same grape as plain old Alicante. You see the identity problem.

Grenache is either first in acreage planted or comes in second in the world depending on the source consulted. However, Grenache however is not as widely planted around the world as Cabernet Sauvignon.  Grenache needs to have a long warm growing season. So, many wine regions around the world cannot grow Grenache successfully.

For those of you who do not care about the geek stuff,pass over this paragraph. Galet lists some 362 clones of Grenache, which can have implications on quality and yield.  Grenache will oxidize easily if not treated well in the winery and then will not age well. Treated properly, it will age well; some of the Chateauneuf de Pape will age for years.  Grenache works well with goblet style pruning and poor well-drained soils. Grenache buds early but needs a long growing cycle to ripen properly. The yields need to be kept low to attain quality. It also suffers from coulere and downy mildew. For those of you who do blind tasting, Grenache is light in color but high in alcohol which is unusual and add in the lower acidity, this helps identify Grenache. It shows more red fruit and white pepper than it common blending partner, Syrah with its black fruit and black pepper.

Grenache is all about strawberries, pepper, roasted nuts and spice. It is a low acid grape and has moderate tannins, but still a little on the wild rustic side. Then as it seduces you with its lovely fruit, it can whack you on the side of the head with its possible production of high alcohol, up to 16% and intoxicating delight. Something like a bad girl friend, I suppose. Defiantly not as refined and elegant as a Merlot, but oh ,so much more fun.

Grenache gets hidden away, with many different wine styles using it; again with the identity problem. It is used in those wonderful Tavel roses for a brunch sipper, the big dry reds from the Rhone, and also in the fortified wines of Banyuls. I have known people that have developed an addiction to Banyuls and chocolate. I have received phone calls late at night, asking if I have a bottle stashed away somewhere. Poor souls. Be careful of those seemingly carefree Tavel roses as well, a big alcohol punch hidden in the fruity strawberry flavors.

Grenache rarely gets the big label billing that a Cab or Merlot can get.  In the old world it hides away on the AOC regional label. The Cote de Rhones from France must have a least forty percent Grenache. The wines from Roussilon also have some in its blend and also shows up in Vin de Pays through out southern France.  The Spanish who have grown it for about eight hundred years, hide the name, under the regions of Priorat with their almost black wines with huge amounts of alcohol, blend it in Rioja and use it in Navarra with their roses. The great Spanish wine Vega Sicilia uses Granacha as part of it blends, a big wonderful wine. Too bad the bank account shudders when this one is brought home.  At the other end of the spectrum, in California’s Central Valley they can beat it up with over yielding vines and use it in jug wines. Bonny Doon and Alban can show it well with their do to low yields and care and attention. Australia again uses it as a blend with GSMs (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) look for Penfolds and D’Arenberg. Grenache is Australians big secret ingredient. That Shariz you have been drinking probably has a little Grenache in it.

Chateauneuf de Pape does it the best by far. Grenache is one of the main red grapes of the thirteen permitted in the AOC.  Vieux Telegraphe and Chateaux Beaucastel are at the top end but use different amounts of Grenache in their blends. At their price point they are so much better than cult Cabs. Look for Cote de Rhone and Gigondas and Vacqueyras at lower price points, but very good quality.

It is hard to make a generlization on food pairings and Grenache as it comes in many styles. Banuylus as mentioned before, think of chocolate desserts. The Roses are great afternoon or brunch wines. The Rhone Valley think of roasted or ‘ barby ‘meats.

This weekend forget the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot. Get a bottle of some form of Grenache preferably a Southern Rhone. Call your significant other, turn down the lights put some music on and indulge a little in something different. If you have the Beaucastel, I will not be held responsible for what happens. If you liked this or the Beuacastel worked, scroll up to the top right hand corner and enter your e-mail and click on subscribe.

There are some opportunities to taste Grenanche coming up in Vancouver.

The ladies from  House Wines have a tasting coming up November 9th which they are calling an  Ode to Grenache.  Check out our post last week on the House Wine Tastings .

Marquis Wines is doing a dinner at La Gavroche,  November 10th,called Wines of the Rhone Valley. By the way you can pick up the Beaucastel and the Vieux Telegraphe at Marquis. Continue reading

Posted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Garnacha, Grenache, rhone wines, wine tasting, WSET | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Scotch Tasting Not To Be Missed

The last dinner and tasting for the Companions Of the Quaich, Canada Malt Whiskey Society at Beyond Restaurant 1015 Burrard for this year will be November 17th and one I am sure you will not want to miss out on.  They have Andrew Crooke, owner of Finlaggan, Ileach and Coopers Choice brands coming over from Scotland to be the guest speaker and Chef George of Beyond is preparing wild game food pairings for some of Andrew’s private stash that he has air freighted over just for this dinner.  Also, each guest will receive a Reidel crystal scotch drinking glass free. These are great glasses by the way, a value of thirty dollars. The 29-year-old Coal Ila is a fantastic dram. and only 600 Bottled.

Whiskies to be tasted:

1991 Auchentoshan

1991 Mortlach

1992 Longmore

1994 Bowmore

1995 MaCallan


Reserve with Marcus at ( rumor has if you reserve early there may be tickets to hop scotch as well, tell them we sent you)

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House Wine Tastings


The other night, I attended  one of the tastings hosted by the ladies of House Wines. Their event was a great value with 12 wines on offer for forty dollars. If you are a Wine and Spirit Education Trust, or an International Sommelier Guild student, this is an inexpensive way to practice your tasting notes.  If it is your intention to taste an array of wines and do a comparison of different styles, this is the venue I would recommend.  One of the advantages of this type of tasting is that you get to try new wines without having to spring for the whole bottle.

The evening was built around Bordeaux blends. The Bordeaux AOC allows for the following red grape varieties; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere.   So, it follows that a Bordeaux blend is a wine with any of these grapes blended together.

The price range of the wines varied widely,  peaking with the 2004 San Leonardo Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT from Italy,  priced at $110.  The opposite end of the spectrum was represented by the 2008 Trivento  “Reserve “ Cabernet Malbec from the Mendoza region in Argentina,  costing a mere $13.  The British Columbia entry was the 2006 Mission Hill “Compendium” VQA priced at $40.  The Mission Hill compared very well with all the foreign competition. The value wine of the evening was also the only white, a Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Blanc AOC coming in at $14. This wine is a blend or Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion.

The next tasting by House Wines is on November 9th and is titled an Ode to Gernache. This should be a great evening,  as  Grenache encompasses so many different styles. Hope to see you there. Frank Haddad CSS CSW

Posted in Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, french wine, Malbecs, Mission Hill | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frank Finds Scotch Whiskey and Chocolate


I must admit that as a regular Scotch drinker, pairing Scotch with chocolate isn’t something I’ve ever thought about. I love Scotch and chocolate. But matching the two together simply never occurred to me.

So when the West Coast Chocolate Festival put on such a pairing, I had to
check it out. Marcus Von Albrecht supplied the Scotches, Heather Rondeau from XOXOLAT took on the challenge of pairing them with chocolate.

The first Scotch was a Finlaggan Old Reserve (40% ABV). Very pungent, full bodied, and smoky with a nice long finish. It had a slight background taste of chocolate, but earthy. This was matched with an Amano 70% single origin chocolate. A Venezuelan criollo with some cherry, it had some smoky, burnt taste that went well with the Scotch.

Second was an Ileach Peaty (40%ABV). The word “peaty” was accurate — go out into the bog, grab some peat, shove it in a glass, and you pretty much have it. There was also a light, oaky finish with an oily bit late on the palate. The chocolate was XOXOLAT’s 75% with blueberry bits — very smooth as the supplied tasting notes implied. Forrastero beans supplied some earthy notes, and the blueberries worked surprisingly well with the Scotch.
Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide
Next on the agenda was a 10-year-old Tantalian (40%ABV). Light oak taste perhaps from bourbon barrels. Cloves and other spicy notes accentuated the long, textured semi-creamy finish. Paired with Cardamom Crème Brulee in a dark chocolate heart, this match was the best of the evening. Spice with spice — perfect.

Next was, for me, the dram of the evening. Caol Ilia 29-year-old (46%ABV). Smoke, sage, vanilla, sweet spice, citrus, and a very, very long finish. A truly remarkable Scotch, this one is coming up for sale in November — get a bottle or two if you can. The nose isn’t as good as what hits your palate, but hit your palate is what is does. Extremely well balanced. The chocolate match here didn’t have much of a chance, though it tried. Amano Madagascar 70% Single Origin by Amano: criollo beans with citrus and raspberry. It worked, sort of, but the Caol Ilia was just too much for the chocolate.

The final paring of the evening was quite remarkable. Ten-year-old Laphroaig. This was a private bottling of only 700 hundred bottles and a product we no longer get in our market — which makes me want to cry. So it was wonderful tasting this favourite again. All sea salt, iodine, and peat, this is an Islay through and through — a big, huge peat monster that kicks you. The most intense of all whiskeys and one I really miss. The Laphroaig Quarter Cask we have in this market just doesn’t do it. I was thinking there was no chocolate that could work with this one, but Heather proved me wrong. She matched it with a tripled-smoked maple-caramelized bacon with some espresso in a dark milk chocolate. It stood up well and matched the peat monster.

So yes, I discovered, you can match chocolate and Scotch — although some pairings work better than others. Congratulations to Marcus and Heather who both did a great job. The West Coast Chocolate Festival runs in Vancouver till November 10, 2010. Check it out.


Posted in Caol Ila, Ileach Peaty, Laphroaig, Scotch, Scotch and Chocolate, Tantalian, vancouver chocolate festival | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment