Monthly Archives: February 2010

Who wins?

So who won the Olympics?  I would say that I did, since I tried 5 different Canadian wines and watched 1500 hours of TV coverage. Also, congratulations to Canada for winning the 2010 Winter Olympic games.  What? Didn’t we come in third?  Trust the wine consultant with the PE degree one last time.

There is no “official” winning country as far as the IOC is concerned (some crazy “everybody wins” idea).   Our bumper sticker philosophers tell us that he who has the most toys when he dies wins.  Does this world view make anyone else a little nauseous? USA and Germany, you won the most medals – congratulations on finishing 2nd and 3rd so many times.  You officially have the most toys.

Now Canada – Congratulations on being the best in the most events (we call those GOLD medals).   In my world view having quality is more desireable than having the most.  In fact, 13 gold medals is the most ever won by one country in a Winter Olympic games!  Too bad we’re so polite up here because part of me wants to shout “we’re fantastic” to the rest of the world.  And now it’s time to celebrate.

LCBO 451641 | Price: $ 21.95

The tiny bubbles in this sparkling wine remind you that “champagne” is for celebrations.  Watching them can be mesmerizing.  The proper way to open champagne is to slowly turn the bottle while holding the cork, gently easing the cork out so that there is very little sound made when it is finally opened.  Forget this, it’s a celebration – pullthecork, make a little noise, and have some spillage.

The wine has a lemony finish with the toasty, yeasty flavours that you would expect from a sparkling wine.

Pelee Island Gamay Noir Zweigelt – Olympic Pairing

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.

Olympic Wine Pairing – for the halfpipe

I guess I’m a sports snob as well. Somebody tell me why we are pairing the lengthy tradition of the Olympic games with the X-games?  Seriously, let’s put the snowboard halfpipe back on ESPN 7 where it belongs. This is a medal sport?  Ridiculous

It looked like an act of desperation when the Fonz  appeared on Laverne and Shirley. Is it that bad Monsieur Rogge that we have to cater to the X-treme sport fans just to increase our ratings? Even the ski cross should be run after all the medals have been awarded, just for exhibition, just for the fans – like they do with figure skating. Anyone who wants to race to the bottom can enter – even the fans – like a pro-am golf event.

Now to the wine pairing.  For the halfpipe I would recommend a bottle of Wild Irish Rose –  you can pick it up at any gas station in South Carolina for $3 US.  The aroma is sweet but the taste is a lot like the gas station you bought it at. If your tastes are a little more refined you could pair the halfpipe with a bottle of homemade wine that has been stored beside your furnace for the past 5 winters.

Larch Tree Hill Riesling – Olympic Pairing

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.

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.

Jackson Triggs Okanagan Merlot – Olympic pairing

Are you trying to effectively pair wines and Olympic events?  Looking for a wine consultant with a degree in Physical Education? Tired of my questions? Look no further and lend me your ears and palate – it’s time for an Olympic Merlot.  Canada has already won a gold medal so we can all relax and enjoy the next couple of days with a smooth red wine from BC.  This is  the 2nd J-T wine I’ve selected ( Jackson-Triggs Methode Cuvée ) but the first from the Okanagan Valley. I’m not usually a fan of Merlot – they often come across as soft and plummy – however, this one has won me over.  It certainly has a time and a place and the time is now and the place is in front of my TV watching figure skating (the highest rated Olympic TV event in America). I also selected this wine for February’s tastings at the Red Brick Café .

JACKSON-TRIGGS Proprietors’ Reserve Merlot 2006
LCBO 543867 | Price: $ 14.95 Okanagan Valley, BC 14.5% Alcohol

 The first things that strike me about this wine is that it is dark, dark red in colour with a very distinct nose of dried plums.  The flavours of strong concentrated fruit with a touch of smoky oak on the finish are delicious.  It is nicely balanced with some acidity,  long velvety tannins, and an even longer finish.

This wine has figure skating written all over it – especially pairs. Smooth, lovely, mellow – can you think of another Olympic event that compliments Merlot better than that? Maybe curling, if they weren’t yelling “hurry hard – hurry” at me the entire time.

Opening Ceremonies – put 2 on ice

Hey, it’s the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics tonight!  What better way to celebrate than with a bottle of Canadian bubbly from one of the official sponsors of Vancouver 2010.

Jackson-Triggs Proprieters’ Reserve 2007 Sparkling Cuvee is in my ice box right now. One for the ceremonies and one for our first gold medal. I hope both events don’t occur within minutes of each other or I might have to share the second bottle with my wife ( an old french joke ).

Canada | Vincor International Inc.
LCBO 563213  $ 14.95

I haven’t opened this yet so it’s a little hard to review.  But, from what I recall it is bubbly with champagne-like characteristics.  Fizzy on the palate, serve very cold for maximum coldness. Also, don’t look down the barrel of the bottle while you are opening it or you will get a cork shot at your head at an alarming speed – I’ve seen it done and while it is very funny you do get the feeling that it could be dangerous.

My sommelier challenge

The real art of being a sommelier is pairing wine with food.  This past weekend we bought two terrines from Ouderkirk & Taylor – one of Guelph’s best fine food stores.  One was pheasant with hazelnuts and the other venison with pistachio. 

So what to serve?  A dry Riesling seemed in order so I chilled a bottle of Jackson-Triggs 2007 Delaine Vineyard Riesling and found a great marriage with the venison and a good pairing with the pheasant. We overwhelmingly declared the venison terrine the winner. One of our guests casually commented that she wasn’t convinced that it was the Riesling which tipped the scales in favour of the pheasant.  The gauntlet had been thrown.

I quickly declared a dry sherry in order for this experiment of the senses (Brillat-Savarin would be proud) and opened an Alvear Amontillado ( see archives Surely that’s a Sherry  ).  Guess what?  Everyone declared the pheasant the winner with this wine. This pairing food with wine is easy!

So now I come to my real challenge.  Wine and sport. Over the next two weeks I plan to pair wines with the Winter Olympics.  I feel qualified – I have a degree in Physical Education from York ( nobody ever seems impressed by that combination – I should really stop saying it ) and I have taught PE for 20 years.  That’s a lot of experience.  In fact I dare you to find a sommelier with that kind of resume.

So check in over the next two weeks as I pull myself away from the 3 billion hours of  TV coverage (or is it 3 billion viewers?) to tell you what wines pair well with the events that I am watching.

LCBO – just stop it!

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.

Alvear Amontillado – Surely that’s a Sherry

Surely that’s a Sherry!  No it isn’t and stop calling me Shirley – or Sherry (adapted from Leslie Nielson).

This “sherry” can’t be called that because it doesn’t come from the city of Jerez – which if you speak Spanish with a lispy Anadulacian accent sounds like the word sherry.  This fortified wine comes from the city of Montilla – Amontillado meaning “in the style of Montilla” – it’s crazy but I’ve heard that the Spanish have a word for everything. So while it’s not technically a Sherry, that’s just a technicality.

Spain  LCBO 112789 | 750 mL | $ 10.95

This nutty amontillado is medium bodied with a beautiful amber colour. There is no hint of the hot alcohol fumes that a fortified wine sometimes has – rather the aging in barrels gives it a smoky almost bourbon-like nose. Nutty, sticky dried fruit flavours.  Seriously, how can anyone get through the winter without a small supply of dry Sherry?  Buy some almonds, some olives, or better yet some almond stuffed olives (I didn’t just make up a mythical food – you can get them) and some serrano ham. Alton Brown would call that good eats.

Brother Kenn is Spain promises to take me to Montilla – surely he will this summer.