Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Winedown at TTG

I’m excited to open the wine today, 2 bottles of HMC McWatters Collection 2007 Meritage.
Harry McWatters is one of the gurus of excellence in BC Wine. He made this wine and it is excellent. I lucked into a case thanks to one of our amazing clients, so today TTG is serving up a couple of bottles. I look forward to the feedback.

I hadn’t been shopping at Les Amis du Fromage for a couple of weeks so I spent too much time talking and relied on picking up the house favourites. We’ll soldier on and see if we can work our way through the incredible Quebec Louis d’Or Vielle, 18 month old cheese and our all time favourite a double section of Le Dauphin, double milk cheese from France. I’m trying to see how much of the Dauphin I have to buy to have leftovers. Hasn’t happened yet. A new favourite is the Honey Bee Goat Gouda from Holland. Sweet caramel undertones!! Who could resist.
The bargain shelf offered up a Gorgonzola Dolce from Lombardy, Italy. It claims to be milder and sweeter than Gorgonzola “Natural”. A little bit of Herbie from the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and we have BC represented and a lovely afternoon ahead.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How to Open a Wine Bottle In Emergency

Instructions are en francais but the video is easy to follow. Try with
a cheap bottle outside and let me know the results.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fabulous BC Wines and Rainy Sunday afternoons

I've been spending the day sorting the wine from my recent wine tour and counting myself very lucky to have some of the great wines made in BC.

I've just opened a bottle of Harry McWatters 2007 Meritage. How did I get so lucky? With Harry's name on the bottle and his personal guarantee I was expecting a lot. Delivered. Thanks Harry. Meritage is my favourite and I think the easiest wine to drink in BC. I doubt if many would argue that point. I'm going to have to resist and see how a glass tastes in a few hours. This glass fresh from the bottle is going down very easily.

Meritage is not the only great wine to drink and when it comes to single varietals my first love may be Cabernet Sauvignon but for the food I like to eat Pinot Noir is my first choice. Which leads me to the bottle of Pinot Noir opened and waiting to accompany my tuna tonight. Pinot Noir made by Bill Eggert at Fairview Cellars under the Eagle Bluff label. Bill made this wine but didn't grow the grapes. I'm looking forward to tasting the Pinot from his new vineyard in the future.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vanessa Vineyards Cawston BC

Here we are Friday afternoon at The Travel Group and a client has sent us a bottle of Sandhill Cab Merlot from his Vanessa Vineyards in Cawston BC. We recently started our wine tour meeting the vineyard manager Nathan who enlightened us on what was happening with the grapes this time of year. I might have to go begging for more, this is lovely wine, rich and aromatic, everything you could hope for in one of my favourite blends.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011 Day 4 and 5

We left the south Okanagan and Spirit Ridge Resort and headed north for Vernon and the Sparkling Hills Resort. A side trip to Naramata and La Frenz to try and nab a bottle of Pinot Noir but no chance. Next year I'm going to pre order. A couple of people said it was the best pinot noir in the valley and that set my spider senses tingling. We were happy to stock up on their excellent Montage, great value at $22 but only at the winery. Worth the 20 minute detore, we were back on track. A 10 minute stop at Quail's gate to get another bottle of the Dijon Clone and be treated t a 3 Pinot Noir tasting (many thanks) and we were off to Cedar Creek's beautiful deck for lunch. Friendly service, good food appropriately priced and great wine make it an excellent place for lunch. Caesar salad with a spitted grilled quail was impressive.

We spent the evening sweating in the saunas and steam rooms at Sparkling Hills Resort, crawled into their amazing beds and slept our way to the very good buffet breakfast included with your stay.

Our next stop was a visit with a Scandinavian Antique dealer friend in Armstrong for Swedish Breakfast. Herring and Schnaps sounded intimidating but, the herring was beautifully presented alongside chopped hard boiled eggs, fresh dill, yellow nugget potatoes and creme fraiche. Orange Vodka was our hosts take on the schnaps, served on the most interesting antique and modern china and stem-ware. We sang a swedish drinking song and tossed back a couple of vodkas. Wow! Camembert covered in cloudberry jam followed. As well as excellent coffee and almond cake. The Swedes know how to enjoy life. We're looking forward to visiting Sweden with Eva next year. Cheers!

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011 Day 3

Day 3 of The Travel Group Okanagan wine tour and we are back on the bus with Mike from Unveil. First stop Fairview Cellars to visit with Bill Eggert and taste some of his big beautiful reds. We've visited Bill on our first wine tour and he's agreed to host our group on his day off thanks to Leah at Kensington Square Wines. Bill is educational, funny and everyone in our group had a great time sipping wine outside his tiny tasting room in the shade of an enormous tree with the new puppy and kitten. Bill tells the story of his wines in a way that makes them seem like friends. Names like Bucket of Blood, Two Hoots and Madcap Red make me smile in anticipation of drinking them over this winter.

Next we visited Tinhorn Creek. This was my second visit and although I like the set up of the self guided tour this winery doesn't excite me. Just not the right fit for me.

Back to Hester Creek Estate Winery, this time for a tasting. We were hosted by Rob, the marketing manager, on the deck with 3 bottles of wine and a story of the winery. They had reserved the deck for us to have a picnic lunch and it would be hard to imagine being made more welcome. I am definitely going back to Hester Creek to stay at one of the villas. I think they are setting the bar very high in the Okanagan for everything they do. Try a glass of their Cabernet Franc and tell me I'm wrong.

Next we visited one of my favourites, Road 13 Vineyards. I've drank a lot of their wines and was looking forward to replenishing my stock of Sparkling Chenin Blanc and seeing their new tasting room. Pam made us welcome with a cheese tray, tastings of some of their best wines and a visit to her beautiful cellar. It's all about the dirt at Road 13, helping us all understand terroire. I'm happy to see how successful they are and hope for it to continue.

Final stop of the day was at Moon Cursor, the former Twisted Tree Vineyards. One of the first wineries in the Okanagan I'd ever tasted at I was happy to come back and find the name change was just an opportunity for them to express their sense of the Okanagan and their sense of humour. They are still just nice people, working hard, making interesting wines. Chris went out of his way to show us around and allowed most of us the chance to do our first barrel tasting. An amazing experience and some very good wines.

Mike picked us up for our final trip with him to Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek. A lot of things went wrong at Miradoro from the moment we arrived to find our table set for 12 instead of 15. It's a new restaurant but the service was disjointed, ordering confusing, several dishes were cold, a couple of orders confused and an attitude that didn't help. I hope they work out the problems because it is a beautiful room and could be a lot of fun.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011 Day 2

Day 2 of The Travel Group Annual Wine Tour. Mike from Unveil picked us up in his excellent bus and headed out for Jackson-Triggs. Mike works hard to make sure your every need is met, he sets his bus up with 2 coolers and lots of ice and water.

Jackson-Triggs has a great tasting room with friendly staff who know how to share wine. They do so much right; good wine related gifts, crackers and chocolate to enhance the tasting. They started with a 08 Sparkling Chardonnay that was a big hit. The Sunrock vineyards Merlot and Syrah are wonderful wines. Jackson-Triggs are famous for winning best Syrah in the world for the Sunrock series, wine from a vineyard right behind the tasting room in Oliver. Obviously that is a subjective claim but the wine speaks for itself. It would be hard not to like.

Our next stop was Stoneboat Vineyards, a family operation with lots of heart and lots of Pinot. Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Pinotage are my favourites. I discovered the Pinotage grape thanks to Leah at Kensingston Square Wines recommending I try Stoneboat Pinotage. She knows my wine taste and she was right. I do love this wine. With family members often in the tasting room, this winery is well worth a visit if you are a Pinot fam.

Church and State was our next stop. WOW. My favourite tasting room so far. There is a long beautiful bar of stained glass with stools welcoming you to stay and a comfy patio where we enjoyed our lunch. The patio overlooks Coyote Bowl, the name on some of their best wines. Try a bottle of C & S Coyote Bowl Syrah. If you like Syrah I guarantee it won't be your last.

Next we stopped at Burrowing Owl. Perfect in so many ways but this is my second visit for tasting and I haven't enjoyed either one. Not very welcoming or approachable, I have to wonder if the staff attitude is a trickle down from the top. As much as I love their wine, no purchases by me. I like my wine offered up with happiness and love and there's lots of it out there. One interesting character we talked to referred to them as Furrowing Brow. Well said.

Our final stop was at LaStella and the good vibes were back instantly. The small room has a lush feeling to match their Italian style wines. They have a beautiful patio with long lovely wooden tables and benches and a great view of the lake below. An then the wine is blow you away good. Jeff lead the most amazing tour and taught us so much. He "made" the day. Treat yourself, if you can lay your hands on a glass or bottle of any of the wines from La Stella, jump at the chance.

We finished the day with dinner at Hester Creek Winery. They prepared a special menu for our group and everyone raved about the food. This was the best meal we have eaten in the Okanagan to date.

We had our best meal at Hester Creek's Terrafina Restaurant. A small incident with the menus was smoothly dealt with and a couple of bottles of an excellent neighbourhood wineries bubbles started the meal beautifully. The scallop appetizer was generous, fresh and perfectly prepared. A choice of steak, chicken or puttanesca pasta were all well received.

The dessert pushed the boundaries with a milk chocolate pannecote with a truffle whipped cream. The aroma of the whipped cream was arresting and not a huge success but everything else was so good it didn't seem to matter. This would be my current first choice to return to in the South Okanagan. I'd love to stay at the villas. Hester Creek is doing so much right, it's a delight. Very impressive handling of a large table.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011 Day 1

Day 1 and we were off to a great start with a tour of the Vanessa Vineyards in Cawston with Nathan, the vineyard manager. In the merlot planting we saw how they were trimming off the green grapes now so that they don't have any underripe grapes at harvest time. These grapes are destined for the Sandhill Small lots program. I look forward to drinking some of this wine.

Next stop was Seven Stones to taste their newly released Meritage. Impressive wine and it comes in a Magnum as well. I am now the proud owner of one of those big boys. We still had time to visit Orofino and get some of their Chardonnay; a truly delicious wine with a long buttery finish, we drink it annually with our Christmas lobster thermidor. Supply laid in. We also picked up some Passion Pit Cab Sauv, sadly both bottles are empty now. Get some if you can lay hands on it.

We ate a picnic lunch on the lovely patio at Herder Winery before our tasting. Their blended red wine, Josephine is smooth and drinkable, a little expensive at $40 for how easily it goes down, but it is readily available at Kensington Square wines.

We finished the day with a tour of N'km Mip Vineyards. They have an amazing purpose built winery and the tour was exceptionally good. Thanks to Moss for an great time. We finished with a tasting in their private tasting room and were treated to some wines that haven't been released yet and a couple of vertical vintage tastings. I'd recommend the wine tour to anyone interested that has the opportunity. I consider it a "not to be missed". It's my second time and I'd probably do it again.

Our first dinner at Spirit Ridge and I was curious to see how these restaurants were going to deal with group of 15. I knew SJ had some trials getting the dining put together and I wanted to see the outcome. The setting and room were beautiful and the service and selection very good. The halibut and salmon were both a little overcooked and the risotto even more so. Great feedback on the salads. I think they've had some troubles in the kitchen recently so hopefully it will be straightened out soon. I'd consider it a success and worth a visit, especially if you are staying at the resort.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Okanagan Wine Tour 2011

It's said that you should be able to taste the difference between a wine from the Golden Mile and one from the Black Sage Bench. I don't think I can do it but I'm off to hone the skills of my palate next weekend touring and tasting in the Similkameen, Osoyoos and Oliver. Golden Mile gets early day sun and Black Sage Bench late. The bench is sand and the Golden Mile is alluvial fans. I love so many of the wines from this region and it's where we did our first serious wine tour. Nice to go back after a couple of years of training. Just a few days of prep study and work and we are onour way. Thanks to Leah from Kensington Wines for her help in choosing the wineries and arranging tastings and to Shirley from The Travel Group for all the logistics. Our 3rd annual wine tasting is looking good!