One of my sweet gigs is picking wines for the Red Brick Café here in Guelph. Friday night was selection night - kinda like America’s Got Talent, except the wine is auditioning and I’m not on TV. So in another very real way it’s not like America’s Got Talent at all. My wife and I met with 5 Red Brick employees, 5 red wines, and selection night began.
Red wines up for consideration
Selecting wines is like being the Westminster Kennel Show judge. All the dogs you inspect are fine animals but do they properly represent their breed? Beagles are to be compared with the ideal Beagle, Huskies with the ideal Huskie, and so on. One of the good things about selecting wines is that you don’t have to inspect a dog’s bum.
Back to my point – If you pick a Cabernet Sauvignon it needs to taste like a Cabernet. The one we tried was tasty but it would have been misleading to put on a wine menu. It was too grassy and green for a Cab Sav. We also tried a Shiraz that was good but not big enough for what I want an Aussie Shiraz to taste like.
In the end we chose 2 great red wines to go with the harvest white wine we selected back in the Spring. They unveil later this week at the Red Brick Café.
Everyday Red is one of my favorite topics on this blog. It certainly the most practical for anyone reading the blog – unless you claim my stories as your own and start telling them at parties. Everyday Red wines are my house wines. They are in the $10 wine category, perfect with or without food, and meet the taste bud standards of both adults in my house. This one is being served at the Red Brick Café right now. It is a true trattoria sipper.
NERO D’AVOLA Cusumano 2007
LCBO 143164 | Price: $ 9.95 Siciliy, 14.5% Alcohol
This is why trattoria’s were invented – or why Nero D’Avola was created – its hard to say. Let’s just say that we considered renaming the Café to Red Brick Trattoria and Ristorante after this went on the menu. “Never match wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line” (Princess Bride) but bet your life that people will enjoy this at your next party. At this price you should buy a case. And don’t EVER call this an Italian wine – apparently both the Italians and Sicilians object to being confused for each other.
Let me know if you tried it and if you liked it.
Spring is here (well close enough, I’ve packed my winter jacket) and so is the new wine and beer menu at the Red Brick Café.
Tuesday night is the launch party of the new wine menu (my creation) served with some tasty food (Jessica’s creation). Party starts at 7 pm – yours truly will be there talking up the new wines. If you have never seen owner Shelley Kreiger at a party then you need to come for just that.
I can’t let you in on the wines just yet but I can give three hints.
A Riesling that is steely and becomes floral when it warms up.
A great trattoria sipper from the old country.
A delicious Shiraz with a twist.
Think about it! And be there if you can.
I’m watching ski aerials from the Vancouver 2010 games. C’est fou (my new favorite french expression)! I think I’m afraid of heights. I didn’t know that until they showed the camera angle from the top of the hill. I definitely knew it when they showed the camera from underneath the jump. I think somehow, somewhere this event got out of control in a hurry! Yikes.
PELEE ISLAND Gamay Noir Zweigelt 2008
LCBO 216028 | Price: $ 10.95 Pelee Island, Ontario
The Gamay Noir grapes make this a juicy wine with a spicy finish from the Zweigelt. It is an easy drinking light wine but the finish is surprising long. The spice notes add some real character and make it quite an interesting wine.
Pelee Island winery uses the Southern Flying Squirrel on the label. It makes me think that it should be gulped while watching the ski jumping or aerial ski events. Gulp while you gasp in disbelief over the fact that these people are on skis and in the air, and most of the time upside down.
The “flying squirrel” wine is being served at the Red Brick Café this month.
The sounds of the Winter Olympics remind me that I love being Canadian. I love the sound of sharp metal crunching into the ice – pond hockey. Similarly, the sounds of the sleds speeding down the ice tracks take me back to fearlessly going far too fast on my toboggan – no helmet, airborne crashes, good times.
These sounds remind me of a Riesling. Larch Tree Hill Riesling is produced in the Okanagan Valley of BC. Riesling grows very well in cool climate wine regions such as Germany, Alsace, and Canada. Come to think of it, cool climate regions produce the best winter Olympic athletes (outside of the Jamaican bobsledders).
This is a great Winter Olympics wine because Riesling is versatile, a little daring, and is best served cold (for maximum coldness). It’s being served this month at the Red Brick Café in Guelph – and it is going fast. That’s right, fast – just like the skaters, bobsledders, luge, and skeleton events that I am pairing it with. Skin tight suits are optional. Don’t tell us about it if you do wear one - nobody wants to know.
LARCH TREE HILL RIESLING Prospect Winery 2007
LCBO 145136 | Price: $ 13.95 Okanagan Valley, BC 12.5% Alcohol
This wine has aromas of lime and peaches and has a nice long finish – much longer than a typical Riesling. The producer’s tasting notes mention hints of fennel and honeysuckle. You will taste the honeysuckle more as the wine warms up.
Larch Tree Hill stands well on its own and would make a great apéritif – serve it very cold while watching the madness that is short-track speed skating and the absolutely terrifyingly insane (or daring) skeleton and luge events – and for the record there is no evidence that “luge” refers to the greek sport of sliding “nude” down ice slides. That was a complete fabrication on my part.
In a 1978 TV special “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” (I’m sure you can guess how that episode ended), the professor was excited to show the world his new inventions – one was the Frisbee! We all knew what he didn’t know – all his inventions had already been invented.
There is hardly anything more deflating than coming up with a good idea only to discover that somebody else had the same idea. This has happened to me over and over and the LCBO people are becoming my nemesis.
Seriously, if I wasn’t driving me mad it would be laughable. Each month I come up with a theme for the wine tastings at Red Brick Cafe. In October I selected the theme of 100 mile diet – two weeks later the LCBO advertises “go local”. I select Argentina and Chile to feature – two weeks later? Yes, stupid Argentina and Chile are on the LCBO cover (sorry that should be stupid LCBO – I don’t even know who’s driving me mad anymore). I do France they do France – stop it!
So this month I draw upon all my creative energy, along with my degree in Physical Education, and come up with a very clever pairing of wines to Olympic events. I even get two wines from BC (that’s near Vancouver) to make the list. Not every sommelier can pair wines with Olympic events – surely this is my genius.
Yesterday I got sent a link from the Edmonton Journal. Writer Nick Lees pairs wine with … well I think you can guess how this episode ends.
So Nick Lees, if that is your real name, I am either now mad at you or we are both geniuses on either side of the same country. I like the second ending.
aka How I fell in love with the Red Brick Café
This is really a wine tasting note but there’s a great story in it so just bear with me and read on.
Just after the Red Brick Café opened in Guelph I walked in to find that they also served wine! Excellent. I was very surprised to find that their house red was a Gran Reserva. Who serves a Gran Reserva for a house wine when you can make a killing on Citra or some other $6 bottle of non-offensive red? I had to meet this owner – who turned out to be Shelley - who turned out to love both her café and wine – who turned into a friend – who now let’s me select the wines for her café. So really this wine found me a café, a friend, and a wine gig. Pretty cool.
LOS MOLINOS GRAN RESERVA
LCBO 620971 | Price: $ 14.70 VALDEPENAS – selected because it was Red Brick Cafes first Spanish house wine
A Gran Reserva ages 5 years – 2 in American oak barrels and 3 in the bottle before release. This aromatic wine from a tiny area in La Mancha tastes of moderate smooth tannins and vanilla. It is medium bodied with flavours of red fruit.
Unlike Rioja wines, here the tempranillo grape is smoother and takes on quite a bit of oak. It’s a great price for a Gran Reserva and tasty too (and people can say “oooh a Gran Reserva”, and you can be all “its just a little something I picked up”, and they can exclaim “that’s so totally thoughtful” … etc. etc.)
Live in Guelph? Close to Guelph? Heard of Guelph? Have you been to the Red Brick Cafe downtown on Douglas street? If you haven’t then shame on you. Guelph has a great downtown and the Red Brick Cafe is one of the finest anywhere. A European inspired cafe that displays local artists, serves espresso, baked goods, pizza and Panini, but most importantly to pullthecork readers, it has a delicious wine list.
Here’s where the conflict of interest starts – Shelley Krieger, the owner, lets me select the wines each month so really I am shamelessly promoting myself – but isn’t that what the word “blog” means? The wine tasting set up is one of the cleverest anywhere (Shelley’s clever idea). For $8 you get to try three wines, there is no wine snobby person talking you through them. In place of a snooty sommelier you are provided with the tasting notes that I wrote. The notes are informative, entertaining, easy to read … there I go “blogging” again.
Also, the wines change monthly – for less than $20 a couple you can plan a date night each month and enjoy a changing selection of wines. Chances are you will run to the LCBO and buy a bottle of your favorite (or buy a half case like I recommended in Y210K It’s Time to Panic).
For January the wines move to South America where it’s warmer this month than it is in Guelph. Somehow knowing that makes me feel warmer when tasting these wines. There is a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a reserve Malbec, and a Carmenere that will warm you inside when it’s snowing outside.
The wine tasting is daily from 11am to 11pm. The list of wines can be found on the Red Brick Cafe website.
Here are 5 Questions that will turn into Resolutions for Y210K.
1. “Why don’t I drink more white wine?” If you’re a serious wine drinker then you owe it to your palate to have a Sancerre, a Chablis, or an Ontario riesling wine once a month. I motivated myself to do this by purchasing a great vintage wine bucket from Chat Noir in downtown Guelph.
2. “Why don’t I drink more local wines?” Why do you think the French drink french wines? It’s not simply their almost fanatical devotion to La République that keeps them drinking close to home. A wise man once said, “When in Provence, drink from Provence. When in Guelph, drink from Niagara”.
3. “How can I try new wines and not buy a whole bottle?” First of all this is crazy talk – the obvious answer is the wine tasting at the Red Brick Café. But if you still insist on crazy talk then go to the LCBO and sign up for the Vintages tastings events at your local store. You get to try new wines and the Vintages product consultants are a lot of fun.
4. “Why have I never tried a …”. You fill in the blank with words such as Barolo, Chateauneuf du Pape, vintage Champagne etc. Just don’t say Cheval Blanc unless you are prepared to drop $2000.
5. “How can I read more of this clever wine blogger?”. Okay so maybe it’s only my close relatives that are asking this – actually they are probably tired of hearing me and reading me by now – but you can sign up to receive an email every time I post – it’s at the bottom of the blog page
Let me know how your resolutions work out.