The Grape Count

In Vino Veritas- "In Wine there is Truth"
Grapes to try to date: 200

Grapes tried: 104
Grapes to go:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Recapping wines 21 - 40

So we're now 40 wines in and on our way to finishing the required 52 by year's end. At the end of 40 grapes, we are liking more than we're disliking so our overall satisfaction rating is: pretty darn satisfied! I give you the grape varietal, whether it's red or white, the name of the winery, the country and of course my rating (a very simple one- like, dislike or neutral).

Like: 15
Dislike: 1
Neutral: 4

White: 9

Countries: Australia, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Argentina, Germany, Canada, New Zealand

21. Petit Verdot (Red) LIKE
Deen de Bortolo Vat Series Winery, Australia

22. Verdehlo (White) LIKE
Bleasdale Winery, Australia

23. Primitivo/Zinfandel (Red) LIKE
Layer Cake Winery, Italy

24. Xarel-lo (White) LIKE
Txakali de Alava Winery, Spain

25. Muscat of Alexandria (White) LIKE
Coppe Moncalvina Moscato D’Asti Winery, Italy

26. Chenin Blanc (White) LIKE
Winery of Good Hope, South Africa

27. Catarratto (White) NEUTRAL
Terri de Genestra, Italy

28. Bonarda (Red) LIKE
El Escondido Don Domenico Winery, Argentina

29. Albarino (White) LIKE
Rias Baixus Winery, Spain

30. Pinotage (Red) LIKE
Graham Beck Winery, South Africa

31. Tempranillo (Red) LIKE
Bordegas Ercavio Mas Que Vinos, Spain

32. Pinot Noir (Red) LIKE
Weingut Schloss Rheinfels, Germany

33. Kerner (White) LIKE
Gray Monk Winery, Canada

34. Petite Sirah (Red) NEUTRAL
de Bortoli Winery, Australia

35. Muller-Thurgau/Rivaner (White) LIKE
Black Tower Winery, Germany

36. Shiraz/Syrah (Red) NEUTRAL
Nugan Estate Winery, Australia

37. Nebbiolo (Red) LIKE
Bastasiolo Winery, Italy

38. Barbera (Red) NEUTRAL
Ricossa Winery, Italy

39. Sauvignon Blanc (White) LIKE
Kim Crawford Winery, New Zealand

40. Sangiovese (Red) DISLIKE
Torre del Sale (Toscana), Italy

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#40- Sangiovese

Blah blah blah. I'm not one to usually paint the Italian as boring but my God this wine is boring. And I have unanimous agreement on this (Kristin even agreed without trying the wine- she remembered drinking this varietal before and thought the exact same thing).

So how long do you write about a plain wine? I'm not sure if we're just red Italian wined out (with the lovely interruption of the NZ white) or if that the Sangiovese is just a really forgettable and neutral wine. I'm running out of descriptors here to basically say "eh- nothing special"

So, the Sangiovese grape is often used as a blend (I'll have to try it and see if I like it better as a blend) and it's very adaptable to many different types of soil conditions and absorbs all sorts of aromas- from fruity flavours like strawberry to a more distinct and oaky taste. Apparently this Sangiovese, from the Torre del Sale Winery in Tuscany (Toscana) is fruity. I didn't taste fruit and neither did anyone else.

I love Tuscany and I loved all the wine I drank in Florence (see my previous post about Italy and Amore) but I'm pretty sure I didn't drink a Sangiovese. The red wines always had a strong and distinct flavour to them. Definitely not this.

So with a flavourless wine, I had to have some spicy food so I made myself some dumplings. I think they're vegetable. Anyway, super easy to make and super delicious. I even whipped out the chopsticks to make it a little more authentic!

I'm not sure but I'm starting to develop a theory about some Italian reds- that they are deliberately plain when drunk alone. The key is to drink the wines with big plates of pasta in front of you. The mix of the tannins and pasta noodles creates some type of magic concoction in your mouth where you can suddenly pull out the subtle flavours and unique properties of the wine. I've made it my  mission to eat pasta with my next red wine from Italy. I'm pretty sure I've got one sitting in my wine cabinet to be drunk before the end of the year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

#39- Sauvignon Blanc

It took all the power in the world for me NOT to finish this bottle of wine! If you want a winner- go out right now and pick yourself up a Kim Crawfold Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is damn delicious and you'll have a very hard time picking out anything you don't like about this wine.

In fact, this wine inspires me so much I'm tempted to book a ticket to New Zealand right now and enjoy a winery tour of this place! Wow. Okay, so you get that I love this wine. I love the crispness of it as it envelopes my mouth with its delicious flavours. The citrus flavours slap your tongue with piercing flavours, so well blended you are immediately transported to a warm climate with views of a never ending sand beach and waves gently rolling in to welcome you to the southern part of the world. Believe me, when it's -30 outside, this is easy enough to do.

So you get that I am a fan of this Sauvignon Blanc, but is Craig? Wait for it, wait for it. The answer is yes! Craig pulled pineapple flavours and while he's close, he's probably actually tasting gooseberry and passionfruit! Now there a combination you don't often fine but oh my, does it ever work here.

Kim Crawford Winery has certainly set the bar if not set the standard for an excellent white wine. This winery has consistently put out a Sauvignon Blanc with rave reviews (even from Parker in the +90 points range for the last 8 years).

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is so versatile and can take on a range of flavours. Its crisp and light on the palette and just a delicious wine to have on its own or with food like seafood or chicken.

Which is what I made myself for dinner. I'm always disappointed that I can't really capture the food well. It doesn't look appearling, but the chicken stirfry (with wild rice, green beans, peppers and red onions) was absolutely delicious and I found paired absolutely beautifully with the wine.

The Winery itself isn't very old and I tried to research to see if it was named after a Kim Crawford but I didn't find anything one way or another. If you do find any info about this winery out, do let me know. If I go to New Zealand (on the bucket list), I will definitely put this on my list of wineries to visit! Those sheep are so damn lucky...

Monday, November 22, 2010

#38- Barbera

The name of the winery is Ricossa in the Piedmont region of Italy. As you can note, this is the second Italian red wine from the Piedmont region. Not done on purpose, I ended up tasting Italy's Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes one right after another. Both bought at Sherbrooke Liquor, it is interesting to note couple of things:

1. I thought the wines tasted quite similar and it took a lot for me to really tell the difference. I'm sure any wine connoisseur worth their weight would have absolutely no problem making the distinction but I didn't really notice much. The big difference is how is is aged. The Barolo (Nebbiolo) grape is aged in oak barrels. While Barbera based wines can be aged in oak, this one wasn't. This wine- the Barbera D'Asti wine is a very dark purple wine and tasted of cherries and slightly smoky (perhaps why I couldn't tell the difference).

2. Craig actually liked this wine better, calling it milder and he's right. When it comes to its weight, the Barbera is a light middleweight while the Nebbiolo is a light heavyweight so Craig was quite observant in pointing this out.

It was our brother's birthday (happy 30th Jim) and mom had made a home cooked meal of roast beef and gravy with roasted potatoes and carrots- a great pairing with the wine- gee it's almost like I planned that! The dinner was delicious and I too really enjoyed this wine as well even though I can't say the wine sticks out for me as a favourite nor would I likely be able to recall a couple of months from now what this wine tasted like at all.

It's too bad because any description of a Barbera based wine seems to be exciting and full of description. And what are my thoughts?Would I go out of my way to go and get another bottle of Barbera D'Asti? Probably not. I guess to me this wine is a little too neutral for my tastes and doesn't offer me enough on my pallette. It's almost as if it would make a great table red, I doubt it would offend anyone very much but wouldn't leave a lasting impression either. At least that's how I'll remember it...or won't.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

#37- Nebbiolo

The wine we drank was a Barolo but the grape varietal it's known as is the Nebbiolo grape. It is also known as Italy's most noble grape so I ensured that we would indeed be trying an Italian wine. I picked up a ton of International wines (I think when I went in, I was expecting to buy two wines, I left with eight) from Sherbrooke Liquor store in Edmonton.

Now, I have been slightly lazy in my blog writing as I've been intertwining some other blog postings with the grape reviews so I'm actually four ahead (completed #40 tonight) but one thing it did allow to do was try and retry the Barolo wine along with the Barbera D'Asti wine (#38). I found both wines quite similar and I can't say that like one more than the other. But let me get back to focusing on the Barolo. The wine is from the Batasiolo winery in the Piedmont region of Italy and while the winery makes more than one Barolo wine, this is the wine that we tasted!

The Nebbiolo grape is also known as Barolo so you may or may not encounter that on the bottle when you're reading it (I had to look it up to make sure that Barolo was indeed the Nebbiolo grape). Craig tried these wines and admittedly was more descriptive in his descriptions of the wine. Now remember, Craig isn't usually a fan of red wine and recently dismissed the Shiraz! But he did not mind this wine and observed that it wasn't took oaky and a bit on the dry side. Interestingly enough, I didn't notice any oakiness taste even though I knew that this wine was in fact barreled. My taste buds are failing me.

Nebbiolo based wines can often take on tastes such as tar and roses and depending the particular region in the Piedmont, can have other tastes of rasperries, violets, tar, wild herbs and cherries. Like Craig noted, it is kind of dry and that is due to the Nebbiolo grape being very high in tannins (causing the puckering in your mouth and the feeling of dryness). Often, this wine is left to age a bit to lessen the tannins and make the wine drinkable.

Dinner that night was perogies (they were whole wheat). And in case you're not familiar with what perogies are, they are this fabulous Ukrainian dish that we are all very familiar with here in Alberta. And so easy to make!! You can either fry them up or boil them for a healthier choice. Add a little sour cream, some chives and bacon bits and you got yourself a meal. Sometimes it's really hard to cook for one person and when you have just come home from the gym after having worked out for an hour PLUS an hour of hot yoga (this is why I'm drinking wine in workout gear) and coming home at 8pm, the last thing you want to do is make a big meal. Perogies it is! Ciao!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Sound of Wine

Our second to last stop on the European trip was Switzerland. Known as the neutral country (how many times have you found yourself not wanting to get into the middle of someone else's fight- I'm Switzerland). They are also one of the only countries in Europe to NOT belong to the European Union. This was slightly frustrating on our trip as we were so used to traveling between countries without border checks or even having to switch currencies. Not only did we have to go through a border, but we had to change our money into Swiss Francs. Normally this is no issue but when you're only there for a day, it's hard to determine how many Francs you really need!

The land of Sound of Music and the Alps and watches and knives and cheese, normally you don't think of Switzerland as a wine making country. I certainly didn't. Even the Swiss (my guide was Swiss) will admit their wine is terrible.

But of course I had to judge for myself. So on the day we were there, on a beautiful little boat that took us across the lake into Lucerne from our Gondola ride, I was the ONLY person on the entire boat to try Swiss wine.

Admittedly, I wondered what I was doing when no one, not even the Swiss, would drink the wine. But what kind of wine reviewer would I be if I didn't try? So I plunked down my 2 Euro and had myself a glass of Swiss Gamay.

And guess what? It wasn't bad! And that's saying a lot seeing as I had just had my fill of Italian wines. Maybe it was the high altitude or the fresh breeze across the blue and idyllic lake or maybe it was just me wanting to really like the wine, but I didn't mind it at all!

Now did I run back and have seconds? No. But I didn't have any issue finishing my glass and I did appreciate the romance of me drinking a nice glass of red wine (ignore that it was in a plastic cup) and drifting into the harbour of a mountain village (well, Lucerne isn't a village and there was a fair going on with boatloads of teenagers everywhere speaking very harsh German)- and holding hands with a hot European Man (sorry Karyn!!), my point being that the wine was just fine.

Now this was my only experience with wine in Switzerland that I remember. That night I ended up at a Sports Bar, an Irish Bar and a dance club but I'm pretty sure I didn't drink any more wine.

Oh and have I mentioned that  I spent the night in a Swiss jail? Sadly I have the pictures to prove it! Maybe the wine wasn't so good after all...

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Wine Amore!

I have been delayed getting this post up, mostly because I've been lazy to write it. But it's time people, it's time. One of the countries I visited on my European vacation was Italy. I had three stops in Italy- Venice, Rome and Florence. Rome, I doubt I'll visit again but Florence and Venice are both cities I would like to go back and explore some more.

My wine experiences in Italy were good. Very good. So good in fact that on most nights I forgot to even write down what wine I was drinking!  But I'll give you some highlights.

I also realize that there isn't much to learn from this posting other than the wine in Italy is plentiful and is almost always good. They often don't tell you the names of the wines- it's just simply a house red or a house wine so if I had been better prepared, I should have researched what the indigenous grape was to region and I could've figured it out. So, I don't offer much in terms of actual wine pickings other than I 

In Venice, we did the famous gondola ride (no singing however, we were told they only do that in Hollywood [or Vegas I supposed]). But we did buy three bottles of sparkling wine, Italy's answer to France's champagne- prosecco! Between six of us, that was half a bottle each. For safety (we think anyway), we had to drink out of plastic cups as you can see in the picture, Karyn is holding her glass of prosecco.

We felt good. We had all the bottles finished within the half hour. It was an enjoyable ride and some of us were a little tipsy I have to say. I have since had prosecco a few times (love it) and I have a bottle ready and waiting for review. We're having it for Kristin's birthday next week.

Also in Venice, we went to this very charming little restaurant whose name escapes me (I'll ask my tour groupies and fill this in later) for a 7 course meal. Yes- seven courses! It was nuts. We had so pastas I started to lose count. But with good pasta comes good wine! The table wine was a Vinoda Tavola and came in both red and white. I do know our table (all Canadian women and an honourary Canadian Irene from California) managed to polish off a few bottles. The accordian player wasn't so bad either!

We also drank a lot of wine at the restaurant we went to in Rome (I really need to remember to write down restaurant names, I write down everything else!). This was only (ha- only) a three course meal but again, the wine was never ending and delicious.  Two of the wines we had here were Falamus Catello Romani and Tavola Rosso (a red and white)

Not to be outdone was the Tuscan dinner in a former monastery when we arrived in Florence! Oh we had so much fun. Along with a ton of dancing, food (see the delicious assortment of pasta on my plate!) singing and piano playing, the meal was also very delicious. While only 5 courses, it was still amazing and so was the wine that was never ending! (as long as you drank, they brought out more).

I can't wait to go back to Italy and try more wines. I had already picked up three bottles in Germany and over the limit for what I could bring back into Canada so I was S.O.L for bringing any Italian wines back. But I definitely will on the next trip. And if you find yourself over there, feel free to bring me back a bottle!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

#36- Shiraz (Syrah)

He's definitely sick. He just didn't realize at the time. Poor Craig just didn't realize his taste buds were coming down with the flu. It's the only logical explanation for his reaction to tasting the Shiraz.

A Shiraz! The go to red wine when you don't know what else to bring to a dinner party and you want to make an impression but not come across as a wine snob but also be able to impress the host and attendees with a decent bottle of wine. You can't go wrong with the Shiraz! Or can you? Craig, the youngest of our clan, has put doubt in my mind. He is a sick man (literally).

Okay, so here's a bit of the back story without the melodrama. Kristin and I love Shiraz wine. It has been our go to wine for a while as we really can't go wrong with it. I thought this wine was a slam dunk win.

The winery is Nugan Estate in Australia. Their wine is called Vision and the grape is the Shiraz grape (also known as Syrah) a very popular grape grown in Australia. It is a very dark wine, quite red, even perhaps described as burgandy (and not to be confused with the French wine region of Burgandy) but the dark colour comes from the dark skin of the grapes.

The wine itself always has very distinct and toned tastes to it. Often it's very earthy or peppery. There is nothing subtle about this wine. Both Kristin and I enjoyed this wine as we usually do. I can't believe Craig couldn't even drink it. My mother told me it took a few shots to get him to take a decent picture without a crinkled brow (and I've chosen the random picture with my other brother Jim getting his mug into the pic- just because that's how my family rolls).

So I only got four words out of him "I don't like it." Well I did. We have another split decision. There's only one way to solve this problem- drink another Shiraz! And I have just the bottle in mind--we'll defer back to the no fail winery of all wineries- Layer Cake! I have the bottle sitting and waiting in my wine cabinet and I'll whip that bottle out at the next family get together (luckily for us we have two birthdays coming up so the opportunity is upon us soon...).

Kristin and I drank this wine on Halloween and I have to say it goes very well with chocolate, even at 12:30pm at night and with a four year old hyper kid who refuses to go to bed! (though I have to give credit where credit is due and inform my loyal readers that Owen officially took this picture of me drinking the Shiraz all by himself). We may just have a future photographer on our hands- he certainly does not inherit the skill from his maternal grandmother! Oh we kid (and besides, she is very aware of her mad skillz with a camera...) I just really enjoyed this wine and found it very easy to drink and went very well with the pasta. It had an earthy taste to it which I do enjoy when it comes to a red wine. It wasn't overpowering in taste and was very typical of the shiraz I had in the past. Shiraz's are often. It's moderate in acidity but is considered a heavy wine for red so it is an acquired taste (but again, a safe bet when it comes to a red).

Being that it was Halloween, dinner was not a huge priority so Kristin made a huge pot of pasta for the family! Homemade sauce is hard to beat and her dinner was still very good, even when made en mass! But the point of the night was to enjoy our wine and send the little kiddies on their merry way to get us some chocolate. I've included some pictures for you to appreciate the cuteness that is the next generation of my family (note: I have not in any way shape or form contributed to this next generation, I only write about them).

The next grape is another grape and Craig better be better and taste buds's the Barolo grape!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival

We might be a province that produces just fruit wines (two wineries at last count) but we certainly know how to enjoy a wine festival! This afternoon was some of the best wine tasting I've had in a long time.

My sister in law managed to snag a free ticket to the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival and passed it on to me (a $27 savings- thanks Sharon) and I asked my mom to come with me to the event. Both Kristin and Craig are sick so they were out this year. Mom and I split the cost of the second ticket and bought $30 worth of tasting tickets and headed inside.

On the way in we were given a tasting guide and a wine glass. We were ready to go.

There must have been over two hundred wineries and distributors in the Shaw Conference Grand Hall. And along with wineries there were restaurants and hard liquor booths and other booths that I couldn't quite figure out the relevance (pet food anyone?)

So with a couple of hundred booths to visit, that meant hundreds of wine tastings. $30 worth of tickets is 60 tickets and most of the samples ranged from 3 to 8 tickets. Mom and I needed a plan.

We went through the list (took us a while even at a skimming pace) to find wines I hadn't already bought for the weekly grape. This will give you  an idea just how tough this challenge is going to be. Of all the hundreds of wines available- there were only four wines that I hadn't tried (of course I'm excluding any blend wine- just the one grape variety). We highlighted those four, found them on the map and set out to find them.

It is so much fun to go and taste wine! If you haven't gone to a festival like this, you definitely should, especially if you are a little weary of trying new wines. It's a great way to learn about wines even before you try. The wineries are so knowledgeable about their wines they can tell you all sorts of things about them- what other wines they're similar too, what taste you should encounter, what to eat with the wine etc. We had one gentleman tell us to wait on trying the Semillon wine because it was so sweet that it would ruin our palette for the rest of the day so to come and try it last. Good to know!

I won't bore you with the details but mom and I made our way over a two hour period and tried 12 wines. Without trying to, we evenly split the tasting between six white and six red. Mom also tried the Southern Comfort as she had never tried that liquer before (she liked it, like- a lot!).

We asked a ton of questions and read little tid bits on all the wines we tried. I asked where we could purchase them and made notes about our first impressions on all the wines. Oh, and we ate too. Mom and I were hungry so we made sure to get some food samplings while we were there. We had a cheese and cracker platter where we had the best Swiss Cheese I'd ever tasted. Thank-you Paddy's Cheese! I know where I'll be stopping by for Christmas!

We also tried garlic prawns with orzo and Asiago cheese from the Chateau Louis Hotel. Our last dish was a dessert- carrot cake stuffed with an amazing goat cheese from Sunshine Village ski resort in Banff. All were very delicious.

Overall my mom and I had a ridiculously good time and will definitely be coming back next year. We will however make sure we buy tickets early as the price ($27 is steep) especially when an early bird ticket is $17.

There is another wine festival coming up in February called Celebrate Wine Fest. Guess where we'll be?\

Our 12 wines list (in alphabetical order of the winery, not in the order that we drank them) and some quick tasting notes. I hope to be reviewing at least 4 of them in the near future!

1. White- De Bortoli and Vina Tarapaca- Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2007 Australia (one I will review in the future). We actually drank this one last because it was so sweet. Very viscous.  We both liked this one and of the two very sweet wines we drank, I liked this one better.

2. White- Gladstone Vineyards- 12,000 Miles Sauvignon Blanc 2008 New Zealand. Mom really liked this wine and I have to agree, it's good. Very crisp and as mom put it "not too sweet, not too dry, just right!"

3. Red- Organic Wine Collection- Girasole Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 USA. Chosen because it had sunflowers on it. Mom could immediately taste the smoke and oak without knowing that's exactly what you should taste based on the reading notes given to us. It was quite good.

4. Red- Painted Wolf Wines- "The Den" Pinotage 2009, South Africa. One of my favourite wines for sure. I found this wine delicious. Loved that I could really taste the fruit (berries) in this wine. Will definitely buy this wine.

5. Red- PMA Canada- Spadina Una Rosa Nero D'Avola 2003, Italy. (one I will review in the future). When she handed me the sample, she described it to me as dark and inky. That's all I'll say other than do not drink this wine while eating cheese, specifically Brie.

6. White- Spy Valley Wines- Sauvignon Blanc 2009, New Zealand. Another nice wine, we were 2/2 with the Sauvignon Blancs. Both had very strong citrus tastes to them that we both loved. Nice to drink.

7. Red- Tinhorn Creek /Tapiz- Yabby Lake Pinot Noir 2008 Australia. It was recommended to us by the merchant as we showed up at her booth with the plate of garlic prawns and looking to try a white. She recommended the light body pinot noir instead. While it was fine to drink, I'm guessing this would finish last on our list of 12.

8. White- Tsantali Wines- Organic Assyrtiko, Greece. (one I will review in the futre). This get the nods up from mom and myself. A great white wine.

9. Red- Tsantali Wines- Rapsani Reserve 2005, Greece. The only booth where we tried two wines. And it's because Greek wines are so hard to come by. This one was a blend of three grapes that are indigenous to Greece. It was ok but nothing to write a blog about (wow, lame).

10. White- Vintage West #2- Middle Sister Drama Queen Pinot Grigio 2009 USA. I have to say, it was the name of the wine that caught our attention. And when you want people to drink your wine, a name says a lot. We loved this wine!! (and no Kristin, there is no hidden message here...says the oldest sister...). I will also recommend to our local liquor store to bring in this wine. They're fairly new but mom and I enjoyed the wine for sure. They had other wines with equally good names as well.

11. Red- Voga/ Giorgio & Gianni- Negromaro 2008, Italy. (one I will review in the future)The first wine of the day and I didn't make a note! But if my short term memory serves me right, my mom and I liked it and knew we were off to a good start. And I'll be reviewing it more in depth in the future so my memory failure is okay in this instance.

12. Warrego Wines- Ice Wine Impersonator, Australia. Lockup Liquer. So much to say about this wine! First, the merchant was fabulous and gave us great information. The wine is an imposter ice wine because it's Australian and they don't get a freeze up so they mix the wine with a brandy to get it to ice wine sweetness. Mom super enjoyed this wine (family member who picked mom for Christmas take note about this wine-- Sherbrooke Liquor carries it!)

There was one wine we really wanted to try but unfortunately the shipment hadn't arrived so we were left to wait until the shipment comes in. It is also with Warrego Wines at it is a red bubbly called Scarlet O'Bubbles (great name don't ya think?) I'll be sure to pick up a bottle of this bubbly stuff for the Christmas season as well.
Two thumbs up to a great day with great company, my mom! Cheers.