Category Archives: Wine writing

Watch your back

“Expect the unexpected” is perhaps the most absurd saying in the English language. If you start expecting then it ceases to be unexpected.

“Things are going just a little too well” is perhaps the most paranoid phrase. Then again being paranoid is only good thinking if everyone is out to get you.

So I combined the two sayings this week during my visit to Bodegas Lagar Blanco in the hills outside Montilla.

I was enjoying the best winery tour of my life thanks to the conversations with Miguel Cruz Marques and his son Miguel. Best tour ever!

I was enjoying myself so much that I almost forgot the suddenly eerily applicable warning by Edgar Allan Poe in his tale The Cask of Amontillado – where the ironically named Fortunato is distracted by his companion by a delicious amontillado and cemented into a wall. Note that in my photo of the casks I have one eye on my companion, Brother-in-Spain, and one eye on the cask.

I don’t expect he is out to get me – but then again I’m sure Fortunato wasn’t expecting the unexpected.

More on my visit to Bodegas Lagar Blanco in my next post.


Emilio Lustau – friend of the little guy

Emilio Lustau is arguably the most distinguished producer of fine sherry in all of Spain. Which is why his backing of some of the smaller artisanal producers in and around Jerez interests me so much. Not everybody at the top looks after the little guy. Let me explain.

Lustau has searched out artisanal sherry makers, buys a share in their solera, and then markets and distributes their sherry. The Oloroso we purchased at the Lustau Bodegas is part of the Almacenista series – almacenista meaning storehouse or cooperative. The maker of the “Pata de Gallina” [Hen's Foot] is Juan Garcia Jarana – a motorcycle mechanic by day and an artisan of the solera system at night. He only has 38 barrels in his solera, making a bottle of his Oloroso a rare treat.

We served this Oloroso with sheep cheese and anchovies on toast. Well done Juan Garcia Jarana. Well done Emilio.


Oh Sherry

The funniest songs can get stuck in your head. Like Oh Sherry, by Steve Perry, while I walked around the city of Jerez in 40 degree weather today. Stupid song – especially considering I had the best Bodegas tour of my life at Emilio Lustau today and should have written a song about that. Thanks Ana for our private tour.
Later in the day Brother-in-Spain and I visited Domecq and I completed my 80’s flashback and got my photo with the Bo Derek cask! For the record, Bodegas Lustau was also a 10.





Cultural Appreciation

Some observations for my first week in Spain
1. My outdoor cocina is an upgrade from my own in Guelph. At least the view is
2. Large dogs still bark all night. The small ones bark all day – prompting me to learn a new Spanish phrase, “ese pequeño perro es un charlatán incansable” [that small dog is a tireless barker] which I think demonstrates considerable cultural acceptance from my last visit when I learned “cállate estúpido perro” [shut up stupid dog].
3. Coffee is milky and good and you get little heat blisters on your fingers because they serve it in un vaso
4. Wine is inexpensive and really good – good enough that I dared myself to drink the lunch sized tetra pack last night
5. The food colours are vibrant





A funny thing …

A funny thing happened at the Farmers Market last Saturday. There was wine for sale! So I bought some – a Gewürztraminer Riesling from Pilletteri estates- and then made a delicious risotto for dinner with asparagus, brussels sprouts, and zucchini that I also bought at the farmers market.

The wine was a great blend of dry Riesling and the Gewürz perfume and honey – one of the best R-G blends from Niagara that I’ve had.

The proof is in the photos. I’m sure you can do the same this week. Thanks to the Government of Ontario for recognizing that this is an important part of farmers markets! In the words of Yakov Smirnoff – “What a country!”


Pillitteri line up of wines


Me drinking a little G-R while doing food prep


My French copper pot and ladle from the Paris market helped make my risotto



Oh yeah

World Cup Observations

Day 1 – I couldn’t be happier knowing that there is a month of the beautiful game to watch.  Here is what I have observed from the opening match Brasil vs. Croatia.

  1. FRED is my favourite name for a footballer Fred
  2. HULK is actually an enormous man. His shoulders and pects alone probably need 10,000 calories each day hulk
  3. David Luiz looks like Sideshow Bobluiz
  4. It appears that Gene Hackman is coaching Brasil this yearscolari
  5. The vowel to consonant ratio in Croatian names is ridiculously low [Vrsaljko - time to  buy another vowel please]
  6. Daniel Craig has given up on James Bond and is now a midfielder for the Croatian soccer team under the pseudonym Ivica OlićOlic
  7. My skills are wasted as a wine blogger – soccer analyst is clearly my calling

World Cup Predictions

Manatees, monkeys, and an octopus are all used as predictor of winners of major sporting events. Groundhogs too if you count Spring as a sporting event.

So this year I decided to open a Rioja and if it sees its shadow then Spain is going to win FIFA’s World Cup again. The proof is right before you.  Start singing “Campeones, campeones, ole, ole, ole!


Thanks Bodegas LAN – you were delicious.20140608-164032-60032357.jpg

Water of Life

I like my eau-de-vie so good that it performs miracles.  Let me explain. Loosely translated “water of life”, eau-de-vie comes in many forms.  The Italian version is grappa [prune grappa my favourite]. My favourite French version – Armagnac.

Armagnac is the oldest of brandies – more complex than Cognac if you ask me.  Armagnac warms me right in the middle of my soul [well maybe just my chest]. Recently I was sent a sample of a 12 yr old Grand Assemblage from the Darroze family.  This is what they have to say about it …

After 10 years in contact with the oak, Armagnac starts to take on the aromas of ageing. The fruit that is still present, is accompanied by the first aromas of soft spices such as liquorice and cinnamon. Still quite fiery, this eau de vie will become more complex after a few minutes breathing in your glass.



 In the 14th century, Prior Vital Du Four, a Cardinal, claimed it had 40 virtues:

It makes disappear redness and burning of the eyes, and stops them from tearing; it cures hepatitis, sober consumption adhering. It cures gout, cankers, and fistula by ingestion; restores the paralysed member by massage; and heals wounds of the skin by application. It enlivens the spirit, partaken in moderation, recalls the past to memory, renders men joyous, preserves youth and retards senility. And when retained in the mouth, it loosens the tongue and emboldens the wit, if someone timid from time to time himself permits.

Who am I to argue with a Cardinal? Also, a little emboldening of the wit never hurt me.

Most controversially, the traditional French gourmet dish ortolan has traditionally been prepared by force-feeding an Ortolan [wee bird] before drowning it in Armagnac and roasting it. The dish is now legally prohibited due to laws protecting the bird but I am certain the tradition continues.  The French don’t take “Non” for an answer when it comes to food.

Armagnac can be found in your Cognac and Brandy section – but you may need to ask your LCBO or Vintages consultant to bring some in for you if there isn’t any there [yes they do that]. I was pleased to discover that one of my Vintages consultants, Sarah, also loves Armagnac and is planning to bring in another one next September.  Just in time to warm my soul.

Oh, and how cool is this sample? Science meets eau-de vie.   Merci and Danke


Riesling for Masai – The Godfather of Wine

This Saturday May 24th anyone who lives within a gas tank’s drive of Guelph has an opportunity to do the following …

  1. Do something good by raising $$ for the Bracelet of Hope
  2. Drink the queen of Ontario wine – Riesling
  3. Meet the Godfather of Ontario wine – Donald Ziraldo, Order of Ontario, Order of Canada ! [I don't have either one of those - do you?]

My man Orest, at the Scottsdale LCBO, is running another of his brilliant tasting events Saturday from noon – 4 pm. For $10 [donation to Bracelet of Hope] you get to try samples of Ontario Riesling, meet owners and wine makers, eat delicious food, meet the Godfather, and shake hands with the irrepressible Orest Poluch [once you meet him you'll see why he can't be repressed]. Here’s some of the information that you may need to convince you to tell one and all and make it to this event.

Orest has named this event the 8th Annual Ontario Consumer Riesling Challenge despite me lobbying him to rename it Riesling for the Republic or alternately Ziraldo’s Here! Get Your Butt On Over

Confirmed wineries below: if looking at #15 doesn’t get you excited about next Saturday then nothing will.

1. BURNING KILN WINERY  ( wine maker present )





6. FEATHERSTONE ESTATE WINERY & VINEYARD ( winemaker/owner present )

7.  FOREIGN AFFAIR WINERY  ( owner present )




11. ROSEWOOD ESTATES WINERY   ( winemaker present )

12. SUE-ANN STAFF ESTATE WINERY     ( winemaker present)



15. ZIRALDO ESTATE WINERY  ( owner present ) Donald Ziraldo, Order of Canada, hon Doctorate Brock U


Local food purveyors involved:

Ouderkirk & Taylor will be providing cheese/preserves

Rheo Thompson from Stratford providing chocolate.

Bread by (Quican Inc. ) Quentin William Johnson

Greek Olive oil from TITHOREA a new retailer dealing specifically in olive oil from Greece.

A new southwest French inspired  bakery in town called Eric the Baker will provide sweet and savouries.

And Guelph’s own Planet Bean (100% Organic, Fair Trade coffee). Showcasing a new coffee from Congo.


I love fear mongering as much as the next guy.  That’s why I am fascinated by the timing of a Provincial election and the Beer Store ad campaign “Good Kids”.

Every fearful person knows that the corner store guy will sell beer to any teenager who walks in with a crisp new twenty in his hand.

My favourite part of this ad – that really does appear on TV [no, my American and European friends, I am not making this up] is the eyes of the kid at the 20 second mark of the ad.  I swear his eyes turned a werewolf yellow the first time I saw it on TV.  There’s no doubt in my mind that underage werewolves will get to buy beer at the corner store given the chance.

I actually don’t mind having to go to the LCBO or the Beer Store to get my beer [no, my American and European friends, I am not making this up that's what the beer store is called in Ontario]. I know that it seems archaic to the rest of the world but hey – this is Ontario – Upper Canada as we used to call ourselves.  Let us indulge in our archaic nature.

Scary kid huh?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 566 other followers