Sunday, February 18, 2018

Tapas and Tastings - Another Great Wine Tasting Evening

Last night, we were invited to our friends' house for an evening of wine tasting and tapas - and it was a great time!

Each couple was responsible for bringing a bottle of wine. We were given the tapas dish in advance and were asked to bring something that would go with the food.

When we arrived, we secretly put our bottle in a paper bag and labelled the bag with the number that corresponded to the tapas course.

For each wine, there was a score sheet ( à la WSET 2) and a page that gave descriptors for the different characteristics of wine. Our host, Keith, popped open the wine, shared it around, and then we spied, sniffed, swirled, sipped and slurped the wine. After a few minutes, our other host, Lynn, brought on the tapas that went with the wine which we proceeded to nibble on while sipping the wine yet again.

Finally, after all of this drinking and eating, we would make our guesses and then Keith would reveal the bottle.

I absolutely loved it!

There were five wines and five tapas. Here's what we had.

The first wine received an interesting reaction from the table. One of the guests said, right off, that she didn't like it. Another said that he couldn't smell anything. I was able to smell citrus fruits like grapefruit as well as some green apple. This continued on the palate where I also tasted what I thought was a little yeast and high acidity. It was also quite mineral-y - and had almost a stone taste to it.

It was paired with Deviled Eggs with Shrimp. The pairing was great - it really meshed very well with the wine. Both the egg and shrimp came alive with the minerality of the wine.

I decided that because it was a great food pairing that this was an Old World wine. The minerality and lack of real fruitiness on the nose led me to Chardonnay. I guessed that is was either a Chablis or a Burgundy Chardonnay.


It was, in fact, a French Premier Cru Chardonnay from Burgundy - a 2014 Mont-Palais Rully Premier Cru ($50 - not sure where to buy in BC). I haven't drunk a lot of Premier Cru wines so far so it is a special honour to be able to drink one. On its own, it was a good wine, but with the food, it was amazing!

Next was a red wine. I recused myself from this one because my friend had phoned me a few days before and asked for a recommendation - so I knew what it was! Even so, I think that I would have been able to get this one. It had a lighter ruby colour with just a hint of garnet around the edge. The taste was definitely black fruits and there was medium structure and acidity. This was unmistakable as a Pinot Noir.

The tapa for this wine was a mushroom crostini with roasted red pepper and gruyere cheese. The wine paired very nicely with the food.

I had given my friend two possibilities - an Old World Pinot from France and a New World from the Okanagan. Since the wine tasted so darned good on its own, I, naturally, assumed it was the New World Pinot.

Wrong! It was a French Jean-Claude Boisset Les Ursulines 2016 Burgundy (Bourgogne) Pinot Noir ($26). I found it to be a very nice Pinot and would pair with a very nice range of dishes - the perfect wine when everyone orders something different!

The third wine was tricky. It was a fairly pale lemon white wine with a somewhat fruity nose and smelled of apple, honey, and stone fruit. The tapa that we had with it was an amazing Mu She chicken wrapped in lettuce. The fruitiness of the  wine paired well with the spices in the chicken.

My wife and I have had a couple of bottles of Gewürztraminer lately and I didn't think the nose was floral enough. That still left others like Pinot Gris or Viognier - so that's what I guessed - Pinot Gris.

Nope! It was a 2016 Gray Monk Gewürztraminer ($16) from the Okanagan. I was fooled by the less floral nose! Fooled or not, it was a good wine to have with the food.

Fourth was the wine that we had brought. It was well received as it was a bit bold, had some nice red and black fruit, had soft tannins and medium acid, and paired well with the tapa which was potato skins with chorizo and queso (cheese). The food was unbelievably delicious (well, it all was, actually) and I was tempted to find a yogurt container so I could steal all the left overs. The wine really stood up well to the chorizo but didn't overpower the subtler flavours in the skins or the cheese. A great pairing!

One of my friends got it (or came close enough, in my mind). He guessed Tempranillo - and it was, in fact,  a  2013 Beronia Rioja Reserva (aged at least 3 years) from Spain. For $26 I think this was an excellent wine and will definitely buy it again. Kudos to 'my guy' at the Pitt Meadows Specialty BC Liquor Store who helped me with this selection. This wine actually has Tempranillo and two Spanish grapes that I don't know a lot about, Mazuelo and Graciano.

Finally, we had a fortified wine to finish off. It was definitely a Port but it's pretty hard for me to tell the difference between Ports - other than they taste wonderful! This Port was quite sweet, had notes of nuts, caramel and honey, and was paired with an incredible chocolate mousse. The Port was sweet enough to stand up nicely to the dessert. I decided that it wasn't a vintage Port (as it was poured straight from the bottle - vintage Ports need to be decanted), tasted sweeter than I thought a Tawny Port would taste and tasted smoother than a ruby Port so I thought it was a Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) Port.

Close, but no cigar - it was a Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Port from Portugal ($40). Still, not a bad guess....

A great end to a fantastic tasting evening. Viva tapas!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sip with your Sweetheart - Wines for Valentines

We were fortunate enough to be visiting the Okanagan this weekend while the Sip with your Sweetheart event was on in West Kelowna. The concept was to visit some of the wineries, sip some wine, and accompany the tasting with a sweet treat. Apparently, this has been going on for a few years and is a great way to kick off the first opening of wineries after the New Year.

Eating sweet things while drinking wine is certainly no easy feat, but the wineries we went to did a great job of rising to the challenge.

Our first stop on the sunny Sunday was Off the Grid winery. We had been there a few years back for the Feast of Field event (which is also a lot of fun, although it costs money while today’s was free).  We actually arrived about 15 minutes early and had to sit in the car while we waited for the event to start! We waited until we saw the truck from Bliss Bakery pull in and  drop off treats for the tasting.

The fine gentleman from Bliss Bakery offering a sweet treat.

The friendly folks from the winery welcomed us as the first customers of the day and then presented us with some wine and a chocolate torte! It was a very tasty way to start off the event. Their wines are  only available direct from the winery.

The wine was a Rosé that had just come off the tank that weekend! It was a 2016 Rosé that has a nice taste and went well with the treat from Bliss. I'm not sure when it will become available for purchase but it would make a nice summer wine - and accompanies chocolate in an agreeable manner.

The winery only had 3 actual wines available for sale - all white. The winery has been closed for most of the winter and were now only opening for special events.

A super deal - and a nice wine - was the 2015 Off the Grid Gewürztraminer that we bought a case of for $99! It had a very floral nose but wasn't too sweet on the palate. It was just fine to slurp on its own but will really go well with chicken, fish, or pulled pork. If you can get to the winery next time it's open, I would highly recommend that you buy a case if it is still available. My only regret is that I didn't buy more!

We also bought a bottle of their 2016 Off the Grid Riesling which was very nice - a bit off dry and full of honey, apricot, and tropical flavours. At $30, it isn't the same amazing deal but was still worth picking up a bottle (which we did).

Next, we headed down the road to Ciao Bella Winery. As we rolled up to this one, it seemed that we were visiting someone's house! We parked, went around the back, and went into the wine shop - which is basically the basement. Outside the wine shop was a hand drawn sign with the wines and prices - drawn in felt pen by a young girl, the youngest of the Fiume family, owners of the winery. The older members of the family inside were very friendly and welcoming as we crammed into the tasting area.

There were three different wines to try, a Pinot Grigio, a Rosé, and a Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, they are only available direct from the winery, from a few stores in Kelowna, or at the Coal Harbour Liquor Store in Vancouver.

I'm not a great fan of Pinot Grigio - I like the Pinot Gris style better - but the 2016 Pinot Grigio ($19) was pretty good - crisp, with stone fruits and a fairly good finish. There were Lindt chocolates to accompany all of the wines and the white chocolate made a nice pairing with the Pinot Grigio.

The wines we really liked, though, pictured above with their wonderfully distinctive Vespa labels, were the Rosé and the Pinot Noir.

The 2015 Pinot Rosé ($20) was made with Pinot Noir grapes and had a fragrant nose. Lots of red fruits like raspberries, strawberries and cherries were both on the nose and on the palate. It had an off dry flavour so would be great with turkey or something spicy.

The 2015 Pinot Nero ($25) was a very flavourful Pinot Noir which, of course, also had the same red fruits on the nose. The taste leaned more to the richer cherry flavours and was a great pairing with the Lindt dark chocolate candy! It would also pair well with a lot of different food (as a good Pinot Noir is known to do) and is wonderful on its own. 

By the way, in the photo above, there is a wooden Pinocchio beside some wine. When we were in Italy with our small children in 2000, we went to Collodi (where the author of Pinocchio came from - and, apparently, took his last name) and visited Pinocchio Park (sort of like a small scale Pinocchio Disneyland) with the kids. At the end of our visit, each of them purchased a wooden Pinocchio - and they were exactly like the one in the wine shop1 Our eldest still has her doll in perfect condition!

After visiting two relatively small, boutique wineries, we went to the big boy of the Okanagan, Mission Hill. This winery sometimes gets a bad rap due to its sheer size and output of wine, but if it weren't for Mission Hill and its visionary owner, Anthony Von Mandl, we'd all still be drinking Calona White, Lonesome Charlie and Moody Blue. Mission Hill is dedicated to making high quality wines that have helped make all Okanagan wines both desirable and recognizable. 

We were greeted at Mission Hill by two of their finest sommeliers, Dan and Bram. Dan explained the five different stations where we could taste a different Mission Hill wine while enjoying a sweet treat. 

First up was their 2015 Limited Edition Viognier ($18 - 10% off during special event). I really enjoy a good Viognier and this did not disappoint. It was very crisp and with apricot and peach flavours. It was paired with a square of milk chocolate which held up well to the wine. 

Next was an amazing pairing - the 2016 Reserve Pinot Noir ($26) with preserved cherries. Mission Hill makes a wonderful Pinot Noir that hits all of the right red fruit notes with the right amount of tannins and just a hint of earthiness. The preserved cherries were made by Mission Hill and were fabulous on their own - but paired with the wine, gastronomical heaven!

Third was the 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($27). This was matched with 80% Dark Chocolate and was another magical pairing! This wine had some nice black fruits including plums, black cherry and black berries on both the nose and the palate. You could definitely age this wine for a few years but was very good to drink now as well.

I somehow misplaced my notes on wine #4 but the last one was another humdinger of a pairing, the 2014 Reserve Riesling Icewine ($25 for a half bottle). There were tropical fruits like banana and citrus fruits on the palate and it paired well with the sweet treat - a piece of locally made fudge. I had the peanut butter chocolate fudge - only a sweet ice wine would have the stuff to match this treat! 

Our last winery for this wonderful event was Rollingdale. Compared to the extravagant experience that is Mission Hill, Rollingdale is out of the way and the wineshop is a quonset hut. From the sublime to the ridiculous?

The setting may be humble but their wines are every bit as good as a finer looking winery. Their wines are available from the winery and some are also available at Save On, various independent liquor stores, and many restaurants.

The treat at this winery was a Purdy's chocolate - my favourite chocolate in the world! We tried the chocolate with their 2016 Fort Port ($20 for 200 ml - made from Marechal Foch) which was very nice - my wife does not usually like Port but the combination of Port and Purdy's please her greatly - and I had to agree! Not quite as nutty as some of the Ports I have enjoyed, it still has a very rich, fruit flavour that is good to drink. In fact, we shared a small bottle later that evening while playing Settlers of Catan.

The 2016 Organic Pinot Gris ($26) was crisp, clean and fruity. It had tastes of apricot and pear and was a fine example of a Pinot Gris.

The 2014 Paint the Town Red ($20) is a mix of Cab Franc, Merlot and Marechal Foch. It was good but lacked the strong character that I have grown to enjoy with Rollingdale's wines. It wasn't terrible, but it just didn't stand out and I wasn't excited about it. Interestingly, my wife enjoyed it quite a lot so - who knows? - maybe this is the wine for you!

Finally we had a taste of the 2014 8 Barrels Merlot ($46). I bought this one at Save On a few months ago and it is currently sitting in our cellar so it was nice to try this one out. It had some great tannins and had that character that I felt was missing with the previous wine. There were some great black fruits such as black currants, black cherries, and plums with some earthiness and leather and a hint of vanilla. This is the type of really stand out Merlot that I enjoy drinking - unlike some other Merlots which can be quite bland. 

Two of my favourite wines from Rollingdale are the Left Bank and the Right Bank wines made in the Bordeaux style. Last year's are sold out but the gentleman I talked to told me that there would definitely be a Left Bank (made from Cab Franc) coming out in the Spring. When I asked why only the Left Bank, he responded that, since some of the larger wineries are going organic (which is a good thing), smaller wineries, like Rolingdale, are finding it more difficult to source organic grapes for their wine (which is a bad thing). 

This was a great event that I would whole heartedly recommend. My only complaint is that I could have spent part of Saturday visiting some of the other wineries that were hosting sips and treats! I'm already looking forward to sipping with my sweetheart in 2019!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Wine Podcast, A Wine Superstore, and a Couple of Wines

I am very fortunate that my commute to work is an enjoyable fifteen minute walk. While on that walk, I listen to a number of different podcasts ranging from fiction stories (Escape Pod), Star Trek Stories (Star Trek Outpost), a podcast about advertising (Under the Influence), travel (Travel with Rick Steves), and horror (Faculty of Horror).

I also listen to numerous podcasts on, you guessed it, wine.

One of the wine podcasts I regularly listen to is Wine For Normal People. Way back when I was writing this post (in August of last year, for goodness sakes!), I went on about how the host of the podcast, Elizabeth Schneider, can be a bit annoying at times. Well, since that time I have listened to dozens of her podcasts and I have had to reevaluate. Her podcast is extremely informative and covers a diverse range of topics - sometimes an episode deals with a particular winery in a particular area while other times there will be a great overview of a certain varietal or a particular region.

I have to admit that, about halfway through each podcast, she will do a plug for a product which lasts a few minutes but. luckily, I can just click the 15 seconds skip button on my iPhone and I can get right back to the podcast.

The podcast is certainly more accessible and entertaining than some of the more highbrow ones that I attempt to listen to (with sometimes limited success) so I think it is a great way to spend 30 minutes to learn something new about wine. There are over two hundred episodes - if you are starting out, I would look for the episodes dealing with particular grapes.

On to the superstore.....

Back when I did this post, I wrote about how Everything Wine was a great place to browse just wine. They don't carry anything else, just wine.

The only problem was that they were a bit of a drive away (in West Vancouver).

Well, just two weeks ago, an Everything Wine opened up in Langley (across the river from me) and I checked it out yesterday.

It really is a superstore for wine - it kind of looks like a Costco store for wine. The main part of the store is quite industrial looking - and my wife complained that it was not as cozy as the government liquor stores - but there are many, many different types of wine.

There is also a vintage cellar area that is quite large and has a good selection of $50 and up wines. Taking my WSET course has really helped in that I can recognize the names of many of these wines and producers. Unfortunately, I still can't afford most of them!

I bought a dozen wines ranging from a cheap California wine for $13  to a fancy French wine that was $45.  There was a volume discount which saved me between 65 cents to 5 bucks on each bottle. I'm not sure how the discounts work as a $23 bottle had a $5 discount, a $24 bottle only $1.22, and the $45 bottle only $2.27!

Still, I think it is fantastic to have another place to browse wine. There are some wines which I suspect aren't available in the government store. But I also want to make sure that I visit the smaller, boutique stores to see what they have to offer.

Onto the wines.

The first was a Spanish Garcia Carrion Pata Negra Rioja ($20 from the government liquor store). This particular wine was made from Tempranillo and two grapes I hadn't heard of before, Graciano (gives structure and aging potential) and Mazuelo (actually, Spanish for Carignan which is a blending wine). It was a nice dark wine with red fruit on the nose and both red and black fruit on the palate with some vanilla flavour - it is a Crianza wine so was aged in oak for at least two years. The average price on Vivino was $8 so I'm not sure why we're paying so much up here in BC! It was a good Rioja - nothing outstanding but pleasant to drink.

Next is Priocca Piacera (can't find a website) from Italy - a last minute grab at Everything Wine. At only $14 on sale, I thought it would be a good match for some wild mushroom ravioli in a tomato sauce. After all, piacere is Italian for like. It was a bit hard to smell on the nose so I was hopeful that this was a really complex wine..... but no. It was a disappointing bulk wine that was rather characterless - except for a mild astringency that was a bit unpleasant. The tomato sauce did manage to smooth out the wine a bit but I would definitely not buy this one again.

Finally, another wine form Everything Wine - and this was the cheapest of the dozen I bought there - a 2015 Redwood Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from California ($12.99). Surprisingly,  (especially after the Piacera wine) this wine had a rather enjoyable black fruit aroma. On the palate, the wine was a bit  jammy but was bold and had a rich vanilla taste. It was good wine for the price and I would buy it again - a great burger or meatloaf wine! I only had a glass last night and when I had another glass tonight, it was still very drinkable.

I am looking forward to trying the other 10 wines from Everything Wine! Good times...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Three Good Reads and a Red

When I first started taking my WSET 2 diploma, I wondered if I would be satisfied with the fairly extensive knowledge that I had learned over the nine week course.

Not likely!

The wine course has only served to dramatically increase my interest in all things related to wine. I have read and/or purchased a number of books relating to wine and I sometimes feel like a sponge because I am so eager to learn.

The first one, given to me by my daughter before I started my course, was The 24-Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson, an excellent little book that gives a nice overview on wine and would be helpful to anyone wanting to learn more about wine then anyone else. I first saw Jancis Robinson on some of the WSET Youtube videos when I was preparing for taking my WSET. Since then, I have realized that she is one of the most influential wine critics around. Her Oxford Companion to Wine is supposed to be an amazingly thorough reference on wine and one of my planned purchases, once I steel myself to pay the $75 it costs.

After reading all of those text bookish type books, one that interested the reader in me is The Booklovers Guide to Wine; A Celebration of the History, the Mysteries, and the Literary Pleasures of Drinking Wine by Patrick Alexander. My favourite part of the book is Chapter 6 on Varietals where Alexander describes different grapes, comparing a specific type of grape to a famous writer, such as Charles Dickens and a Cab Sauv. There are also lots of interesting information about the history of wine, something that is not always included in other books on wine.

The last one that I will talk about is one that I am plodding though right now - and, oh, what a wonderful plod! It is, of course, the Bible - no, not the Christian Bible - the Wine Bible by Karen McNeil. I was lucky enough to get this book on sale (I think about $15 or $20) and it is a major reference book. It is also rather enjoyable to read through. I have been working on it for the last couple of months and find that it is enjoyable to read about different regions and try to remember the different grapes and wines in various regions around the world.

This is probably not the book for a person just finding out about wine. I would say that you should have at least some kind of knowledge about wine, whether it be a course or some reading of other, easier books. It is well written and not difficult to understand, but it is so packed with information that it might be a bit intimidating to some.

All that reading makes me thirsty! Time to look at tonight's wine.

Tonight I tried a 2016 Narrative Non Fiction Red Blend ($23) which was a blend of Cab Franc, Merlot and Syrah.  purchased this wine at Save On - which I think is a wonderful opportunity. Wines are available at grocery stores, since the change in liquor laws in BC, that were previously only available at the winery or a restaurant. The liquor store does carry wines by Narrative but not this one.

A quick note on Narrative - it is produced at the Okanagan Crush Pad which is described as a 'hub for local winemakers'. I'm not sure if it still offers the same services that it did when it opened. I do know that it is home to two fine wineries, Haywire and Narrative.

The wine we had tonight was not as dark as I thought it would be - I would have thought the Syrah would have make it more inky. The nose was quite noticeable with tobacco, green pepper, and black currants. On the palate, there were some wonderful tastes including black plum and pepper. It had a bit of sweetness that I think was fruitiness (you can test that by holding your nose and drinking - if there is still sweetness, then it is actually sweet, not fruity) and some pretty well structured tannins.

To pair the wine, I had some lovely duck and truffle sausages from my favourite sausage place, Oyama on Granville Island and some homemade French gratin potatoes. I also made a port and fig sauce to accompany the sausages. The sauce was great with the sausage but not so good with the wine since the sauce was sweet. However, when I had a piece of sausage without the sauce, the wine was a perfect pairing!

Overall, I would give this wine 4 out of 5 stars.

Now, back to my books....

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Last Blast of the Holidays

Mission Hill statues in the snow.
My wife and I both work as educators and have to return to work tomorrow morning. We've had a good break this holiday but it seems to have finished far too quickly. We spent some time in Kelowna with my eldest over New Year's and tasted some wonderful wine.

One of the highlights (other than visiting with my Grand-Puppy) was a tasting at Mission Hill as I don't think I've done an actual tasting there, despite the fact that my son-in-law works there. Yes, I've tasted several of their wines, and even had a barrel tasting, but I haven't actually had a wine shop tasting.

I was pretty impressed by their wines, especially the 2015 Reserve Syrah ($26) and the Terroir Merlot (I think it was the Whispering Hill - although it might have been the Splitrail - only available from the wine shop - I think it was around $50). We were also extremely fortunate to have a special tasting of Mission Hill's flagship, Oculus (2013 vintage  - $135) complete with Gabriel glasses (these glasses are very light weight and pretty expensive as well). I would love to purchase a bottle of this and really sink my teeth into it, so to speak, but I'm not sure I am ready to spend that much on a bottle of wine, despite how lovely it was. It screams out for a fine French meal and a romantic evening....

Back at home, we did manage to try a few different wines - most of them being quite nice.

The first was one that had been aging for a little bit - maybe a year or so. Apparently, I don't do a very good job of monitoring my wine cellar.

This was from Vin Amité in Oliver in the Okanagan and was a 2015 Hidden Corner Red ($32). I found it to be an amazingly good wine with great tannins and wonderful black fruit flavours. It is a Cab Franc, Merlot, and Malbec blend and it really sings to me. I do really enjoy a Cab Franc but adding the Merlot and Malbec just makes this a really nice wine to drink. I'm not sure where you can get this besides the winery but if you can, I would grab some. Definitely worth it and definitely good to drink right now.

Next up is a wine that I can't believe I haven't mentioned before. Synchromesh is a small winery in Okanagan Falls and we first had their Riesling when we had it at a friends' house for dinner a few ears ago. Since then, we often hunt down restaurants in Vancouver just so we can have some more of this tasty vino.

We purchased six bottles from three different vineyards through the Okanagan Wine Club and have sadly gone through five of them now. There are some differences between the different vineyards but, basically, they are all amazing Rieslings and I am kicking myself because I didn't buy a case!

We had a bottle of 2016 Four Shadows Vineyard Riesling ($26). It has a wonderful fruit flavour with honey, peaches, and even some tropical fruit - it has a faint sweetness to it which is remarkable. Riesling is supposed to be able to age a lot so I have managed to pry away one bottle from my own hands to see how it will cellar. Next year, I will make sure I go to the winery and buy a case - at least!

The only disappointment this week was something that I had tasted last spring and, at the time, I thought it was really 'cool' so I bought a bottle. It was a 2015 Fairview Cellars Fumé Franc ($25 - possibly only from the winery in Oliver). This is basically a wine made from grapes that were definitely affected by the smoke from the fires in the Okanagan in 2015. While it was interesting to taste this smoky wine, I tired of it pretty soon. Additionally, my wife was not interested either. Interestingly, it was rated very high on my Vivino app but I could not agree. Interesting how tastes change.

The next one is a very approachable, and not too expensive ($26), 2018 Malbec from Argentina from Amalaya - which, we learned on a trip to Napa - is owned by Hess. I thought it was a very nice wine when I had it a few years ago as Hess sold it at their winery in Napa. I hadn't had it for quite a while and was pleased with the taste of this approachable Malbec.

Finally, as tonight was the last night of our holidays, I cracked open a wine that had been in the cellar for two years. It was a 2011 Summerhill Spadefoot Toad ($44 - in Kelowna). I was a bit excited about this one and was not disappointed. I took care to decant it about an hour before drinking and then poured a nice glass. The nose was not overly complex with bell pepper and black cherry. But on the palate were some wonderful tastes! There was very good structure with some definite tannins but these were not overpowering. There were tastes of tobacco, black fruit and leather. The ageing did take some of the fruitiness out of the wine but the earthy flavours that were left were wonderful.

I did a terrible no-no by having this wine with a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce and Italian sausage but it actually paired pretty well!

And now, back to work.... gotta pay for this wine somehow!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Ageing Wine - History in the Bottle

As I write this, we've had a wonderful Christmas Eve meal of tourtière and have enjoyed a few different wines over the past couple of days. Christmas is a very special time for us, as in many families, as our adult kids come home, and I tend to bring out some of the special wines to celebrate the occasion.

I was very fortunate to meet by daughter's new dog - christened Nebbiolo! Can you tell that my daughter and her new husband are both in the wine industry? Nebbi is a real cutie and has added to our enjoyment of the holidays.

This holiday, I brought up a few of the wines that we had in the cellar. By cellar, I mean the storage locker in the underground garage which is not ideal but remains a fairly constant temperature with slow fluctuations and is definitely cooler than anywhere else. I rummaged thought the nine boxes that we have stacked up behind the Christmas decorations and took each and every bottle out, assessed whether I thought it was a potential candidate, and put aside eight or nine bottles.

There are a lot of opinions about ageing. My WSET course book stated that most wines do not benefit from ageing - in fact, 99% of wines should be drunk within a couple of years of buying the bottle. Interestingly, many of the Okanagan wineries do, in fact, suggest that ageing will be a great benefit to the wine that you are drinking. Winefolly states that most wines are released within two years of being picked as grapes and should be drunk within six months of being purchased.

I know that when I made wine in my basement from juice so many years ago, I found that having the wine sit in the cellar for twelve to eighteen months after bottling helped a lot - but that isn't really ageing - that just got the wine to that 'release' state. I might have aged one or two bottles an additional year but it was a rare occurrence.

When wine is bought from the store after its release, there is definitely a taste of fruit that is enjoyable and that many people desire from their wine. As a wine ages, the fruit flavour dissipates but there are benefits such as lesser tannins, reduced acidity, and an overall smoothness of flavour.

I had first hand experience with three different wines, all from the Okanagan. They were not all the same age and were not aged the same amount of time but this will hopefully give you some insight on ageing.

The first wine that we had was a Pinot Noir from the Hatch in West Kelowna. We bought it in October of 2016 as part of our first wine club purchase. We had originally signed up for the mixed case but then we spotted something unusual. The Hatch had three different Pinot Noir clones as part of their red wine case. We did a tasting of the wines in the case and immediately changed our order.

The different Pinot Noirs all had the number of the clone such as 767 and 777. The 777 clone was amazing! We absolutely loved it and decided that it would make a great candidate for ageing. It tasted of red fruits and had a complexity that seemed to really call out for a few years in the cellar. Looking at the tasting sheet that accompanied the case, it was suggested that these clones would age until 2019 and beyond.

Then, last summer, I was at the Hatch and I spoke to one of the hatchlings about the clones. He said that the clones should actually be consumed my the end of this year! Thus, it ended up on the special wine list last night.

I clearly remembered the wonderful taste of the 777 a year and a half ago. When I tasted the aged wine last night, I was quite disappointed. It had lost its distinctive fruitiness and really didn't have a lot of character to make up for this. It was rather bland and dull and did not show the expressiveness of the younger version.

It was an unusually blah wine as the Hatch usually has amazing wines. Did I wait too late? Would it have benefitted from even more time in the cellar? Was my storage at fault? Or was it a wine that should have been drunk young? I do not know!

The second wine, also from last night, was a 2013 Hester Creek Terra Unica Cabernet Sauvignon purchased last spring at the Hester Creek Crush Pad Party. I bought five bottles at the time and  I still have 3 bottles of the stuff and thought I'd try one to see how it was coming along.

Hester Creek has a great wine club - you don't have to commit to x bottles every year - you simply purchase your wine and get points for each dollar spend which you can use to buy wines at a later date. You also get to attend special functions like the Crush Pad Party

This wine tasted wonderful! We had it with some juicy steaks from the barbecue and the pairing was great. The tannins had settled down somewhat from the spring and there was a smoothness that was very tasty. It was a wonderful wine that had aged somewhat after a fairly short amount of time. I will definitely continue to age this one and try another bottle next Christmas! Kudos to you, Hester Creek!

The last one was the feature wine for tonight. Way back in (I think) 2012, we went to Black Hills and had a fabulous wine tasting. There were three of us and we split a premium wine tasting (it was around $20 each and they were fine with sharing). The host was called a "Wine Evangelist" and did an awesome job of doing the tasting, He talked about the history of the winery and the wines, which you would expect, but also talked about his own personal sommelier experiences all over the world which really added to the tasting. During that visit, we decided to buy a bottle of their flagship wine, Nota Bene, and save it for a special occasion.

What better special occasion then the marriage of my daughter and my new son-in-law? Even though the wedding was in September, we decided that it just worked better to have our drink today. We decanted the wine and let it breathe for an hour and then poured. 

It was a fantastic wine! It had an earthiness and a richness that was amazing! I don't recall exactly what the Nota Bene tasted like five years ago but I was very please with how it had matured over time. This was truly a wine meant to be aged! I only wish that I had bought more bottles as I think this would continue to improve with age. How long? I'm not sure but I don't think it is at its ageing apex just yet. 

So, after trying three different wines that had been aged to varying degrees, there was one miss, one hit and one that was out of the ballpark. Not a bad ways to kick off the holidays!