Domaine de Bila-Haut L’esquerda 2012

January 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Darkness²

Try with music pairing Ben Frost Aurora to double down on the darkness

Domaine de Bila-Haut L’esquerda 2012 by M. Chapoutier is a new specialties release at SAQ ($22.45), which is as good an excuse as any to check out an unfamiliar appellation.

The South-eastern French appellation Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde Controlée is certainly not ubiquitous, so we took some time to read up on it while the wine was breathing. There are only four villages that have earned the status to be named on the label — Caramany, Latour-de-France, Tautavel, and Lesquerde. The  sub-appelations offer reds only, and the grapes allowed include Carignan, Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre. The L’esquerda has a majority of Syrah, with Grenache and Carignan.

This region has a strong Spanish influence, it is known for producing 90% of France’s sweet Vin Doux Natural wines (from Rivesaltes, Maury, Banyuls), but the dry wines are now gaining popularity and prestige. The region is Mediterranean, hot, sees an average of 325 days of sunshine, and drought is the main viticultural hazard. Lesquerde is mainly granite soils.

Music pairing: Ben Frost Aurora. Also dark and brooding, complex, balanced, excellent job done building to a climax. Quietly loud … like looking up from within the abyss of the white, snowy blindness of winter and remembering the warm embrace of sunshine will be coming soon.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is a wine that Philippe Dandurand Wines represents in Canada and I work as the Brand Manager for the M. Chapoutier portfolio.  I love my job, but this blog is a free time project.

Event: Salud Chile

January 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The wine of Chile is the theme region of a certain international wine festival in Vancouver later this month. We thought you might like to get a head start on the crowds and learn the basics about Chilean wine before the big event, so please join us!

We will taste six to eight wines from Chile, talk about the country’s main grapes and styles of wine – all while nibbling cheese from Benton Brothers Fine Cheese. This seminar will also cover some etiquette tips and other things you should know about joining a public wine tasting and help you form a plan for getting the most out of your tasting room experience. You will also receive a 10 per cent discount on your shopping.

The long, narrow country of Chile has a vast array of climates and ecosystems which allow for varied styles of wine.  When looking for value wines, Chile is a great place to start. But Chile is not only useful for discovering great Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Sauvignon Blanc for under $20 — there are also very impressive, complex and high quality wines coming from Chile and gaining prestige. It’s time for you to warm up to Chile. Salud!

Date: Saturday Feb. 25, 2012
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Cost: $35
This seminar is limited to 12 seats and is a first come, first served basis. Please call 604.875.3325 with your credit card details to purchase your ticket and reserve your seat. Alternatively, you can purchase tickets in person at the store (2857 Cambie Street @12th Ave).

Event: Cavities for Cupid

January 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Indulge your sweet tooth and learn about pairing wine and chocolate to prepare for Valentine’s Day. Like Cupid and his arrow, Valentine’s Day can really sneak up on a person. But this year you will be prepared for romance by learning about styles of wine that pair well with chocolates.

We’ll try full red wines with cocoa notes, interesting dessert wines and Port. You might be surprised at some of the pairings! You will be led through a flight of six to eight wines and have a chance to discuss with your fellow tasters. Following the event, guests will receive a 10 per cent discount on their shopping.

No date yet for the big day? This might be the perfect opportunity to plan one. Who knows, you might even meet that special someone around La Table Commune.

Date: Fri, Jan 10, 2012
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Cost: $35
This seminar is limited to 12 seats and is a first come, first served basis. Please call 604.875.3325 with your credit card details to purchase your ticket and reserve your seat. Alternatively, you can purchase tickets in person at the store.

Event: Roaming the Rhône Valley

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Rhône Valley in the south of France is an incredible region for quality and value wines. At the everyday level, these wines are full of red fruit flavours and offer medium-drinking ease and a pleasing food-friendly quality. At the top end, these wines are complex and structured, showing incredible layers of flavours, aromas, and are a smooth-drinking delight.

I’m a big fan of the Rhône and I can’t wait to share my passion for these wines with you and tuck into eight delicious samples that will show off the range of styles and how the wines speak to where they are from.

Cheese will be paired for the event by Benton Brothers Fine Cheese and you’ll receive a 10 per cent discount on your shopping at both Firefly and Bentons following the event. Roam into Firefly and join the Rhône gang!

Date: Sat, Jan 28, 2012
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Cost: $35
This seminar is limited to 12 seats and is a first come, first served basis. Please call Firefly at 604.875.3325 with your credit card details to purchase your ticket and reserve your seat. Alternatively, you can purchase tickets in person at the store at 2857 Cambie Street, Vancouver.

Event: Wine 101

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Wine 101 is a fun, friendly intro to some of the well-known grapes and wine styles. You’re invited to take part on Friday, Jan 13, 2012 from 7-9pm.

The world of wine is vast and that can be intimidating – but not at this seminar. I will break it down to the basics and give you a good foundation of wine knowledge. At La Table Commune, there are a maximum of 12 guests, so you will have ample opportunity to join the discussion and get all of your questions answered by a familiar face.

Your global wine adventure will include eight classic styles of wine and a discussion of each one, where it comes from and the grapes it is made from. Whether you’re a wine newbie or you’ve been drinking wine for decades, you’re sure to try something new and learn a little something along the way. If you find a new favourite, you will enjoy a 10 per cent discount on your shopping after the event.

Knowing what you like and what to expect from different bottles of wine can really help you to make wine purchases that are better suited to your own taste.  This class will give you the tools you need to identify and describe what you like and you can use these tools to continue to learn every time you taste a wine. Cheese will be provided from Benton Brothers Fine Cheese and we will have a chance to discuss pairing wine with food.

There’s no better winter getaway than a quick trip around the globe – and travelling with me is always an intoxicating adventure.

Date: Fri, Jan 13, 2012
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Cost: $35

This seminar is limited to 12 seats and is a first come, first served basis. Please call Firefly at 604.875.3325 with your credit card details to purchase your ticket and reserve your seat. Alternatively, you can purchase tickets in person at the store, 2857 Cambie Street, Vancouver.

Gobble Up Some Wine

September 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Pairing food and wine is an exciting and rewarding challenge, but it can also add to the pressure of the holidays. I’d love to have you join me at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales to talk turkey — and wine, of course.  I love to help you to find the perfect wine for any occasion, and this tasting will help you discover the pairing essentials for turkey and all the Thanksgiving fixings.

I’ll be selecting a variety of delicious wines perfect for your harvest feast. At La Table Commune, there are a maximum of 12 guests, so you will have ample opportunity to join the discussion and get all of your questions answered by a familiar face.

Our search for perfect pairs will include six to eight samples of wine, a discussion of each one and why it would pair well with certain dishes. You can apply these food and wine pairing principles to any meal, not just Thanksgiving dinner. Light snacks will be provided during the tasting to add to the experience. Discover some wines that you like and enjoy a 10 per cent discount on your shopping after the event. Remember — Thanksgiving is the following long weekend.

Date: Thu, Oct. 6th
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Cost: $35

This seminar is limited to 12 seats and is a first come, first served basis. Please call 604.875.3325 with your credit card details to reserve your seat. Alternatively you can purchase tickets in person at Firefly (2857 Cambie St, Vancouver).

Make Cupid Sparkle

January 12, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Like Cupid and his arrow, Valentine’s Day can really sneak up on a person. But this year you can be prepared for romance by learning about the perfect drink for two. I’ll be hosting a sparkling wine tasting at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales on Friday, Feb 11, 2011.

Sparkling wines are made all over the world, but most famously in Champagne where they also command premium prices. We will taste different styles of bubbles from around the world and you can be the judge of how you would like to invest your sparkling dollars.

We will also discuss the traditional method for making sparkling wine, along with other methods that can be used. You’ll finally know how they get the bubbles into the wine! You will be led through a flight of six to eight wines and have a chance to discuss with your fellow tasters. Following the event, guests will receive a 10 per cent discount on their shopping.

No date yet for the big day? This might be the perfect opportunity to plan one. Who knows, you might even meet that special someone around La Table Commune.

Date: Fri, Feb 11, 2011
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Cost: $35

This seminar is limited to 12 seats and is a first come, first served basis. Please call Firefly Fine Wines and Ales at 604.875.3325 with your credit card details to purchase your ticket and reserve your seat. Alternatively, you can purchase tickets in person at the store (2857 Cambie Street, @ 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada).

Cornucopia — Day 3

November 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I was asked to volunteer as a sommelier at Cornucopia, Whistler’s Celebration of Wine and Food, and I jumped at the chance. Spend an entire weekend of wine and food in the beautiful, Olympic-ski-resort town? Sign me up!

Sunday – Day 3

My volunteer shift didn’t start until noon, but the seminars were already in session then, so it was a quiet start. During the afternoon sessions, I poured BC wines for Sommelier Kurtis Kolt during his two back-to-back seminars: Keeping it Local – BC Wines with BC Cheese, followed by Tasting British Columbia. These were part of a mini-tasting series, so there were only about 25 people in each session. The style was casual, with people standing around high-topped tables (although some people were ultra-casual and took a seat on the floor. I didn’t blame them — it had been a long weekend of indulgence!). As Kurtis spoke about each wine, myself and the other sommeliers would circulate the room to pour the wine.

Kurtis lived and worked in Naramata for six months this year, following his award for Sommelier of the Year Award at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival for his work at Salt Cellar in Vancouver. He explained to the crowd that after working in the wine industry and selling BC wine at Salt, it was time for him to take advantage of the close proximity to the Okanagan wine region and dive in — really get to know the area.  However, the pace of Okanagan life became a bit slow and after six months he packed his bags again for the city. His time in the Okanagan left him with some great stories and knowledge to share about the wines he selected.

I was not invited to taste any of these wines or cheeses, so I don’t have much to comment on there. I was kept fairly busy during the seminars making sure all the guests were served. I guess after the weekend of tasting I had, it was time for a few dry hours.

Following the BC mini-sessions, I went up to the Viking Stage again to sit in on Molecular Gastronomy at its Coolest – Barefoot Bistro and Inniskillin Winery. The presentation was pretty cool, literally, with Dominic Fortin, pastry chef of Barefoot Bistro, freezing dehydrated pineapple pieces with liquid Nitrogen. Guests were offered Inniskillin Icewine to pair with the frozen pineapple, and it definitely brought out the tropical fruit in the Icewine. Dominic followed up that spectacle with by freezing ice cream with the same liquid, as cold smoke rolled over the edges of the bowl.

It was a sweet and fitting end to my weekend in food and wine paradise!





Cornucopia — Day 2

November 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I was asked to volunteer as a sommelier at Cornucopia, Whistler’s Celebration of Wine and Food, and I jumped at the chance. Spend an entire weekend of wine and food in the beautiful, Olympic-ski-resort town? Sign me up!

Saturday — Day 2

Saturday I was back at 10 a.m. to report for my first volunteer shift. I was marched up to a table of open Pinot Noir and told to taste it all. That’s a lot to face so early, but I suppose it could have been Napa Cab or Argentinean Malbec! One other sommelier and I worked through about four dozen bottles to make sure all the bottles were showing well for the Pinot Noir from Around the Globe seminar.

After tasting through the wines, it was time to pour them. Pouring a flight of a dozen wines for about 60 people is no easy task. It is very important that each wine is put into the correct glass, or the consumer gets a misrepresentation of the wine. Also, when trying to make four bottles pour exactly 60 servings, it is important to have a good measuring instinct, as there is certainly no time to measure each serving.

Next it was on to set up the Bubble-icious seminar, which also posed a challenge. Since an important part of enjoying sparkling wine is the mousse, it does no one any favours to pour out the wine in advance and let it become flat and warm. So timing was crucial for this one, only half the wines were poured to begin, then the pouring team burst into the room half way through the seminar to pop more corks and buzz around the room filling the rest of the glasses.

During the down time, I was able to sit in on the Cool Climate Clarity seminar, featuring 13 Australian wines. Mark Davidson of Wine Australia was the host, colourful and good-humoured, but most of all knowledgeable and keen to sweep away the notion that all Aussie wines are over-ripe fruit-bombs. He made the point that there are more cool-climate growing areas in Australia than most people imagine, especially in the South and Tasmania. Favourites in the room (because with a boisterous Aussie leading the session, everyone has to speak up) included the Tahbilk Marsanne 2008 (~$18), Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2008 (~$50), Yabby Lake Pinot Noir 2007 (~$51) and Ring.bolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (~$22).

When the seminar let out it was time to jump into action. In an amazing feat of teamwork, the volunteers and convention centre staff managed to turn over the two 60-seat tasting rooms in one hour. This is amazing because 120 seats, with an average of a dozen glasses at each place, require a whopping 1,440 wine glasses. After a tasting, these glasses usually still contain some wine. So the excess wine must be dumped out, the dirty glasses collected into dozens of crates and whisked away; the water glasses, spit cups, tasting mats and garbage must be collected and recycled or thrown out; and the table cloths must be changed. Now it’s time to set up for the next tasting! Cloths down; mats down; spit cups down; 1,440 new, clean glasses out; wines organized, opened, and tasted; and each wine must be poured into the appropriate glass at each seat.

Once that madness was over I was able to join the Argentina – Beyond Malbec seminar hosted by Iain and Barbara Philip of Barbarian Wine Consulting in Vancouver, and it is always a pleasure to be in their expert company. Since Canada is the number two export market for Argentinean wine (after the USA), Argentina is trying to get consumers to think of the country for more than the popular Malbec. The seminar was very informative, taking guests through all the regions in Argentina, considering latitude, altitude, climate, soil and water influences. For me, the Michel Torino Cuma Torrontes “Organic” 2009 from Cafayate, Salta offered a lot – crisp, refreshing acid, light body, aromatics, and for only $14. The top of the reds was Finca Decero “Remolinos Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 — smooth, balanced with a lot of fruit extraction for only $28.

After helping with the tear down of the Argentina tasting, I had finished my volunteer duties for the day. I went up to the Viking Stage to join the All You Need Is Cheese seminar, where Canadian cheese was paired with Summerhill Pyramid wines. There were nine types of cheese and six wines to play around with pairing. My favourites included Boerenkaas from Natural Pastures in Comox Valley paired with the Chalice, a deep, nutty, caramel-y dessert wine, and the Tiger Blue from Poplar Grove in Naramata paired with the Riesling Icewine.

We finished the epic day at the Crush Gala Tasting … for the third time. This time I stood in line to try the 2006 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red ($149), big, red blend (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) from the Napa Valley in California. It was a wine with depth and made me a little weak in the knees. Thankfully there was great people-watching when I took a seat and watched the buzzing tasting room.




Cornucopia — Day 1

November 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I was asked to volunteer as a sommelier at Cornucopia, Whistler’s Celebration of Wine and Food, and I jumped at the chance. Spend an entire weekend of wine and food in the beautiful, Olympic-ski-resort town? Sign me up!

Friday – Day 1

My weekend began Friday afternoon with Crush – the Trade Tasting. It is open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights, but Friday afternoon is reserved for the “trade,” which includes those in the food and wine business. The trade tasting is a great place to start the weekend off because there are often familiar faces in the crowd, the crowd is thinner than in the evenings, and there are often special wines only offered to those in the trade.

Next it was off to the Top 25 Reception, which was held at the new Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, a beautiful wood-and-glass structure perched on Blackcomb Way with a near 360-degree view of the mountain scenery. The event showcases the results of Cornucopia’s Top 25 contest, judged by a skilled tasting panel.

The number one wine overall was Carrion Cristalino Rosado (~$16), a pink sparkler from Spain, which is quite affordable to try for all of your upcoming holiday celebrations. BC wineries in the Top 25 included Summerhill Pyramid Winery (Organic Riesling Icewine 2007 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2007), Deep Creek Wine (Pinot Noir 2007), Painted Rock Estate Winery (Merlot 2007), Therapy Vineyards (Chardonnay 2008), and Tinhorn Creek Vineyards (Oldfield Series 2 Bench White 2009).

From the Top 25, we were off to Sidecut, open since June 2010 at the Four Seasons Hotel and a great place to enjoy Canadian prime steak, rubbed with your choice from six rubs. Then, when the steak comes to the table, a slab of six sauces is delivered as well! Since they began with such great meat, I found all the rubbing and saucing overkill – the steak had great flavour all on its own.

Next it was back to Crush for more tasting at the evening event where Painted Rock Estate Winery’s line-up stood out, as did Ex Nihilo Pinot Gris 2009, Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery’s Obra-Prima and Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s Cipes Brut.




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