Monthly Archives: November 2009

A Case of Champagne please.

So how wealthy do you have to be to buy Champagne by the case?  And I don’t mean Prosecco or Cava – although I am a big fan of both – I mean the real stuff.

Cristal? Dom? Veuve? Krug?   Veuve is the most affordable at $93 so that probably rules it out.  Roederer’s Cristal is the most expensive (and therefore best) at $286 per bottle.  Some quick math puts that at $3500 a case.  That seems like a good deal depending on how much you drink.

There is a saying in France that a magnum of Champagne is perfect for sharing with your wife … as long as she is not drinking.  A magnum of Cristal 1999 is a deal at $3000 – VINTAGES 93062.  This Cristal is a Grand Cuvée, which means the grapes are selected from the favoured vineyards.  Now that sounds like a level of snobbery that I am interested in.

Maybe the way to shop is to buy a Salmanazar – 9000 ml which is 12 bottles worth all in one bottle.  Vintages can get you a Pol Roger for $1000 but I have to warn you that this is a non-vintage Champagne so therefore is a blend of a couple of years.  And really, if you are going to be a Champagne snob why bother with a non-vintage.

If you want to kick up the snobbery a notch, then hop on a plane to the Ritz-Carlton Moscow where you can buy a bottle of 1907 Shipwrecked Heidsieck. Shipped in 1916 from Champagne to the Russian Imperial Family, a year before the Bolsheviks got to them, a shipwreck off the coast of Finland caused this champagne to be lost at sea until 200 bottles were discovered by divers in 1997. You can get one from the Ritz-Carleton for $275,000 a bottle – or just over $3 million a case – if there’s any left.


My favorite Red and White from the LCBO shelves

Red Wines – drink on a Friday night or bring to a party but never hesitate to open one of these wines if your spouse says “Is there something tasty to drink tonight?” 

  1. Eastdell Black Cab 2007 – Cabernet Franc, Baco Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon from Niagara
    LCBO 609875  | Price: $ 12.95 – you could also try the red cab from Eastdell but the Baco Noir is a grape that is one of Ontario’s best.
  2. Malivoire Red 2008 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Gamay  from Niagara LCBO 141523  | Price: $ 14.95 – this wine flew off the shelf at Red Brick Café and not just because of the cute ladybug on the bottle. I will write about Malivoire shortly – it’s a very cool winery
  3. Jackson Triggs Proprietors’ Reserve Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 LCBO 560680 | Price: $ 12.95 – because I love Ontario’s Cab Franc
  4. Long Flat Cabernet Shiraz 2008 LCBO 212373 | Price: $ 10.95 – my house wine for the past year

White Wines – we don’t usually drink white but whenever we drink these wines we ask ourselves “Why don’t we drink more white wine?”

  1. Inniskillin Riesling 2008 LCBO 83790 | Price: $ 12.45 – a great Ontario winery. Riesling is the most versatile grape in the world. This one is dry and crisp like the apples at the farmers market.
  2. La Vieille Ferme 2008 LCBO 298505| Price: $ 11.45 – a nice mix of several Provencal grapes. From the Cotes du Luberon. Drinking it reminds me of my favorite BBC series A Year in Provence

Vintages November 21

I love getting the Vintages catalogue in the mail. Each time it arrives at my house I run upstairs with a blue Sharpie and circle the wines on my wish list. Then I pretend that I have $200 to spend on my wish list.  It’s  like when you dream about what you would do if you ever won the lottery, although I guess on a much smaller scale.  I never spend this kind of money on wine but it’s fun to dream.   A bigger wine budget?  Happy thought indeed.

 Here we go …

Either Cristal Brut Champagne 2002 Vintages 268755 $287 or  Opus One 2005 Vintages 026310 $299

Budget blown and I only have one bottle of wine! That’s a problem.

Okay Vintages, you are priced right out of this world on this release.  You do this every year before Christmas.  I guess the thinking is that since we are all going crazy spending money like crazy that you might as well bring in these crazy expensive wines.

So if I don’t buy the Cristal or Opus then here’s what I would do with $200.

1. Burgundy – Chablis Domaine Bernard Defaix Vintages 950667. Two bottles = $60 (white wine) I love a Premier Cru Chablis, it’s my favorite white wine

2. Loire – Domaine Bellevue Sauvignon Touraine 2008 Vintages 082305. Two bottles = $30 (white wine) A flinty Sauvignon from the Loire makes me pine for raw Oysters

3. Spain – Muga Reserva 2005 Vintages 177345. Two bottles = $50 Anyone may know of my love for Spanish Rioja – as my brother Kenn says “It tastes like a dry, hot summer”

4. Australia – Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre 2004 Vintages 726802. Two bottles = $60 It makes me so happy when the Aussies make a Rhone blend – a perfect marriage

I think this is $200 well spent.


Nouveau favorites – get them now, they go fast

Winners from the Nouveau party

1. Georges DuBoeuf Gamay Nouveau LCBO 891846 | $ 8.95   This is what Beaujolais Nouveau should taste like

2. Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau VINTAGES 932780| $ 14.95.  Floral and fruity with a bit more muscle than the typical Nouveau.

3. Albert Bichot Beaujolais Nouveau LCBO 112409 |$ 12.95.  Albert knows what he is doing.

Thanks to my tasting committee, Roger, Rob, and Chris


Beaujolais Nouveau Party

Today is the third Thursday in November – a date marked in my Moleskine planner the moment I get a new one each January.

Of course it means that “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!” Who in their right mind doesn’t love a red wine that is easy to drink? Yet some people “pooh pooh” the new wine.

People who don’t like Beaujolais Nouveau don’t really understand the purpose of wine.  Pulling the cork on a bottle is meant to be  a celebration not  an act of scrutiny. 

Each year I celebrate with what is to date my only act of genius – I host the neighborhood Nouveau party!  Everyone who comes brings a chilled Nouveau ( I have some in the fridge in case – heaven forbid- it comes room temperature) and an appetizer.  Brilliant – enough wine and enough food for everyone.  I haven’t met a person yet who “pooh poohs” my party or the wine at my party.

 For those people who want to turn a wine tasting into an  episode of CSI ,  look for clues as to what this years harvest has to offer (memo to self – CSI Beaujolais is a great idea for a TV show).

Nouveau is fun, delicious to drink, highly quaffable (great word huh?), and a party in the making.  Now isn’t that what wine is supposed to be about?


November @ the Red Brick Cafe – Australia

 In the hands of the winemaker

When money is no object a great growing season or a great vineyard is what you look for when purchasing a wine.  However, since most of us are on a budget, the best values can be found in the hands of the winemakers.  They can create great wines from humble beginnings – a little science, a little art, a little voodoo? The winemaker can turn an inexpensive grape into a premium wine using subtle winemaking techniques.

The wines this month are based on familiar varietals – Chardonnay and Shiraz – but when blended with other complimentary grapes they become something quite special.  The reds are not the typical bold Shiraz wines that Australia is famous for – rather they are smooth, silky, and sophisticated.

HARDYS Stamp Series Chardonnay Semillon
LCBO 335638 | Price: $ 9.95

Winemakers trick – blend a lime citrus Semillon with a buttery, melon Chardonnay
This is a dry white wine but the nose is sweet, with undertones of sour fruit Skittles (Yes, I said Skittles).  The taste has light sweet nectar taste. Semillon balances out the wine with a clean finish and hints of oaked Chardonnay – not at all overpowering. There is no doubt that Chardonnay is the star but the Semillon makes a case for best supporting actor.

YALUMBA – Y Series Shiraz Viognier
LCBO 624494  | Price: $ 14.95

Winemakers trick – add a small percentage of floral white wine to a deep red Shiraz 
The winemaker at Yalumba Wines has added a small percentage of the white Viognier grape to the otherwise earthy and tobacco Shiraz.  The white wine Viognier adds a scented floral nose and softens the tannins nicely.  The result is a delicate smooth wine that reminds me of a soft-spoken Cotes du Rhone. Pay attention to this wine in order to fully appreciate it.

Yalumba takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and is proud to be the first wine company in the world to receive the Climate Protection Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s pretty cool.

WOLF BLASS – Shiraz Grenache Red Label
LCBO 494336  | Price: $ 14.95
Winemakers trick – gently press the grapes to avoid extracting too much tannin, oak some of the blend

Shiraz Grenache is another Rhone-style blend.  However, some people find the Australian style overly tannic.  In this wine the grapes have been gently pressed to avoid the heavy tannins usually associated with Australian Shiraz.  Some of the harvest is lightly oaked and then blended with the rest of the wine before bottling.  This is a clever way to soften the wine and bring out the ripe fruits of the Shiraz. The wine exhibits rich plum and cherry flavours with a hint of spice.  Smooth and delicious. Thanks Wolf (if that is your real name).

About the Sommelier –Travis Oke travels the world vicariously through the Vintages catalogue and the LCBO shelves.  He is still waiting for an invitation to guest host on the Food Network’s Thirsty Traveler.


Yalumba @ the Red Brick Cafe, Guelph

What this town needs is more people paying attention to our environment. That’s why one of the wines selected for this months RBC Wine Tastings Club is Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier. They have won several environmental awards including the Climate Protection award from the US Environmental Protection Agency. How cool is that – the freekin’ EPA!

Furthermore it is delicious! 

Even though I love Guelph and respect its commitment to the environment, I will not drink a wine that is organic, lowering the global temperature, or saving the last dodo bird unless it is REALLY good.  This one is REALLY good.

A blend of Shiraz and a small percentage of white Viognier wine that turns a tough “John Wayne” manly Shiraz into a sensitive 21st century “I’m not afraid to cry at a romantic comedy” wine with softer tannins and interesting floral hints.


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