The Grape Nut http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/ Thu, 15 Nov 2012 21:14:00 GMT Beaujolais Nouveau — comme ci, comme ça http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3af9a9368a-eecb-404f-9854-8754608e858e&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Thu, 15 Nov 2012 21:14:00 GMT <p> Every year on the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau is released. It’s a tradition that was invented by négociants in the region to promote wines from Beaujolais as well as to offload some of their more ordinary juice. </p> <p class="p2"> The Beaujolais Nouveau heyday has come and gone, but one can still find these red wines on local shelves every year around the same time — November 15 being the big day in 2012. There’s not as much fanfare around their release as there once was, and the steady creeping upwards of prices in addition to the increase in popularity in New World wines has meant Beaujolais Nouveau is more a tradition than a chance to capture a big chunk of the wine-thirsty public.</p> <p class="p2"> The bottles are typically adorned with pretty, eye-catching labels, and are marketed in the US as being a good option to go with Thanksgiving dinner. Wikipedia says around 49 million litres of the stuff is made every year, which makes up half of the Beaujolais region’s total production.</p> <p class="p2"> Some New World producers in regions that make a fair amount of wine based on the Gamay grape — the same variety used to make reds in the Beaujolais region — have jumped on the trend, and it’s not uncommon to find Gamay Nouveau (or some similarly named product) from cooler-climate New World regions like Ontario.</p> <p class="p2"> In the past I’ve gotten a bit more excited about Beaujolais Nouveau — I’m a big fan of reds made from the Gamay grape, both from the Beaujolais region and otherwise. When drunk young, wine made from the Gamay grape is juicy, fresh and kinda fun — most Gamay wines aren't meant for any extensive aging, although some from certain communes in the Beaujolias region like Morgon are a little heavier and more serious.</p> <p class="p2"> Since Beaujolais Nouveau day is one of only a few annual wine-based events celebrated around the world, I figured I’d get in on the action and at least give the 2012 batch a taste. I haven’t found great variation in vintages over the last five years or so — they’re extremely fruit-forward, light-bodied  wines with very little tannin.</p> <p class="p2"> <a href="http://pluck.winnipegfreepress.com/ver1.0/Content/images/store/12/3/4c02c48f-e2a7-4adb-835f-ea28c4f57bde.Full.jpg?1" target="_blank"><img src="http://pluck.winnipegfreepress.com/ver1.0/Content/images/store/12/3/4c02c48f-e2a7-4adb-835f-ea28c4f57bde.Large.jpg?1" style="width:85px;height:250px;" /></a>I picked up the <b>Georges Dubœuf 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau</b> for $16.95 plus taxes at my local Liquor Mart — it appears that’s the only one at Liquor Marts, although private wine stores may carry others (I know Fenton’s Wine Merchants at The Forks Market has had quite the selection in the past).</p> <p class="p2"> Back around early 2006 I was given a wine kit of Oregon Pinot Noir juice, which sat in my basement untouched for about a year until I finally got around to making it. As it was fermenting, I’d occasionally give it a try to see how it was doing. </p> <p class="p2"> The reason I bring it up is because the smell of the Dubœuf reminds me of that extremely unsuccessful endeavour. There’s a real bubble gum, strawberry candy and bread dough thing going on aromatically here that’s pretty typical of Beaujolais Nouveau. On the palate it’s very light and super juicy, with strawberry/raspberry candy flavours certainly in charge. There’s virtually no tannin here, and the acidity is fairly pronounced, ramping up the juicy factor here in a big way. If you like extremely fruity red wine, you could certainly do worse than this — here I’m thinking of the Apothic Red — but you could certainly do much better, especially for the price.</p> <p class="p2"> Come to think of it, why don’t I open a bottle of that homemade wine I made five years ago and give that a try too? Ok, here goes…</p> <p class="p2"> <a href="http://pluck.winnipegfreepress.com/ver1.0/Content/images/store/4/3/54133ee0-3718-4055-93c3-158905a4e769.Full.jpg?1" target="_blank"><img src="http://pluck.winnipegfreepress.com/ver1.0/Content/images/store/4/3/54133ee0-3718-4055-93c3-158905a4e769.Large.jpg?1" style="width:138px;height:250px;" /></a><b>Frances Grace Estates 2007* Pinot Noir </b>(Yamhill Valley, Oregon — priceless)</p> <p class="p2"> The vintage comes with an asterisk, as it was the year I bottled the stuff and the year my daughter (for whom it is named) was born. I think we gave it to family that Christmas. I made the label myself.</p> <p class="p2"> A bad sign — the cork broke as I was trying to extract it. Things are looking bleak.</p> <p class="p2"> Appearance-wise, there’s a definite brownish tinge to the edge of the surface of the wine in the glass, indicating it’s probably past its prime. On the nose… well, what can I say? It’s like everything that could go wrong with a wine in one glass: vinegar, nail polish remover and cork aromas are most prominent, meaning some air likely got in and/or the wine was tainted in the process of making it — both likely.</p> <p class="p2"> There’s a definite stewed cherry thing going on in this light-bodied Pinot Noir that’s anything but pleasant, and a sort of prune/raisin/toffee undertone that isn’t much fun either. It doesn’t taste too vinegary or corked, but it’s certainly far less than what I’d call drinkable. I’ll score this wine a solid 61 points out of 100. It makes the Beaujolais Nouveau taste absolutely divine.</p> <p>  </p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:f9a9368a-eecb-404f-9854-8754608e858e On pricey beer, taste and experience http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3aa02ae0da-16cf-4b4e-9fb5-f81fa3932e6a&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Wed, 29 Aug 2012 15:11:00 GMT <p> So you might have noticed in today's paper that <a href="http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/not-your-average-brewski-167803685.html" target="_blank">I was quoted about the Westvleteren 12</a>, arguably considered one of the world's best beers. </p> <p class="p2"> First off, disregard the fact I was called a "local connoisseur" — let's just go with someone who likes beer that tastes good.</p> <p class="p2"> Look, I'm not advocating dropping $85 for a six-pack of beer on a regular basis — you should have seen the look my wife gave me when I told her I wanted to do so. My go-to beer at home is either the Half Pints Little Scrapper or the Steam Whistle — the former is $12.32 for a six-pack and the latter sells for $2.95 per 500ml can.</p> <p class="p2"> But if I get a chance — possibly a once-in-a-lifetime chance — to try what many call the world's best beer and I can afford it, I'm going to pull the trigger. </p> <p class="p2"> The world's best wine (or one of) would likely cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars — out of my price range. A prized scotch or cognac would certainly fetch thousands — WAY too rich for my blood. But $85 for six bottles of what is considered the best beer? I can afford that… once.</p> <p class="p2"> But can you taste the difference, many will ask, between a wine/beer/scotch like that and your everyday, run-of-the-mill wine/beer/scotch? Most of the time I'd say the answer is yes.</p> <p class="p2"> I know, there are <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/apr/14/expensive-wine-cheap-plonk-taste" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">articles out there</a> that declare when expensive and cheap wines are tasted blind and side-by-side, people can't tell the difference between the two. So be it. </p> <p class="p2"> But most of us don't drink wine like that, do we? Isn't tasting a great beer/wine/etc. as much about the experience as it is about the flavour? </p> <p class="p2"> When I was in Australia last year, I was able to taste two of the world's great red wines — Penfolds Grange and Henschke's Hill of Grace. Both cost hundreds of dollars per bottle, if you can even find them.</p> <p class="p2"> I tasted the Grange at Penfolds' Kalimna property with senior Senior Red Winemaker Steve Leinert. I had tasted a couple vintages of Grange before, but never in such a setting and in such company. It was a sublime experience in many ways, and the wine showed ridiculously well.</p> <p class="p2"> Similarly, I was able to taste Hill of Grace at the Henschke winery with fifth-generation winemaker Stephen Henschke. This was after seeing the Hill of Grace vineyard in person — gnarled, twisted 150-year-old Shiraz vines that looked more like small trees. It was like a living museum. The wine itself was a remarkably deep, complex wine for whom I could find few comparables.</p> <p class="p2"> Did the setting make these wines taste better? Hard to say. Are they experiences I'll remember for the rest of my days? Absolutely. And I can still remember how each wine tasted without looking through my chicken-scratch notes. The experience, in a sense, is invaluable.</p> <p class="p2"> When I tasted the Westvleteren 12 I did so at my kitchen table, by myself, in a moment that held no real special meaning other than I had a deadline to get <a href="http://www.uptownmag.com/food-drink/brew-master/The-best-beer-ever-167075045.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">my beer column</a> in. In my head I was expecting great things, and I wasn't disappointed.</p> <p class="p2"> But I imagine sitting down with good friends, opening this beer and having a conversation about it, and can only imagine the experience would have been even more meaningful. Or what if I tasted the beer at the Belgian abbey in the presence of the Trappist monks that make the stuff? I imagine that would be a bit of a transcendental experience.</p> <p class="p2"> Some of the comments on the Westvleteren piece on the <em>Free Press</em> website note that one bottle of Westvleteren is about the same price as two insipid jumbo drafts at a Jets game. A valid point, to be sure, but my overall experience of watching the Jets play in the MTS Centre this past season was one of excitement, to the point where, just maybe, that overpriced draft. </p> <p class="p2"> I expect <a href="http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/polls/Is-any-six-pack-of-beer-worth-85-167754375.html?viewResults=y" target="_blank">today's poll</a> about whether any beer is worth $85 for a six-pack will lean heavily in the "no, it's not worth it" direction (hey, it comes with two free glasses). I get that. But if I can have the chance to try such a legendary beer and it's not going to bankrupt me, I'm probably going to take it.</p> <p class="p2"> Ok, enough rambling. Carry on.</p> <p>  </p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:a02ae0da-16cf-4b4e-9fb5-f81fa3932e6a Leftovers... delicious leftovers... http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3a4f4801f2-52e9-4bbf-84cb-71b1c2aeedd0&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Wed, 22 Aug 2012 20:47:00 GMT <p> I probably taste at least 10 times as many wines every year as I write about — heck, last week I probably tasted more wines in four days than I could possibly cram into a year's worth of columns. Add to that the fact I'm now doing a beer column over at <em>Uptown</em>, the Freep's little cousin/Winnipeg's entertainment weekly, and the reviews start to pile up faster than I know what to do with them.</p> <p> So here, perusers of the <em>Winnipeg Free Press</em> website, are a few of the wine and beer reviews I have kicking around. Products have been tasted at some point between the Winnipeg Wine Festival (April-May) and, well, today (the Half Pints beer).</p> <p> If people would like me to keep offloading extra reviews in this space, leave a comment or what have you and I'll do my best to oblige from time to time. Heck, I might even do a bunch of Canadian wine reviews of products that may not be available in Manitoba, now that we're able to have Canadian wineries ship to Manitoba...<br />  </p> <p class="p1"> <b>BEER</b></p> <p class="p1"> <b>Half Pints Brewing Co. Noche De Los Alebrijes</b> (Winnipeg, MB — $4.15/650ml bottle, brewery, Liquor Marts next week)</p> <p class="p1"> This "malty dark lager in the Oaxacan style," as the label says, was released this past weekend (as was the latest incarnation of Half Pints' Humulus Ludicrous — my review of that will be in next week's Uptown). Deep cola in colour with a slightly off-white head, the Noche has a great nose of toffee, roasted malt, vanilla, caramel and light spice. The fairly weighty palate delivers mocha, dark chocolate, light spice and a nuttiness without seeming too heavy for our fantastic warm weather. </p> <p class="p2"> <b>Big Rock Rye & Ginger Ale</b> (Calgary, AB; $2.06/341ml bottle)</p> <p class="p1"> It’s not what it sounds like—rather than make a drink featuring rye whisky and ginger ale, Big Rock made a beer featuring rye malt and ginger zest. Deep gold in colour, I didn’t pick up much in the way of ginger aromas—some deep malt, rye and toasted nut notes on the nose were nice enough, with maybe a light touch of ginger in the background. It’s pretty much more of the same on the palate—malt, rye, and nuts—although there’s a very light hint of candied ginger-ish sweetness and a light bitter edge that insinuates ginger.</p> <p class="p2"> <br /> <b>SPARKLING WINE</b></p> <p class="p1"> <b>Simonsig 2008 Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé</b> (Stellenbosch, South Africa - around $22, private wine stores)</p> <p class="p1"> Pinotage, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are the trio of red grapes in this South African bubbly. Strawberry, raspberry, bread dough, pear, mineral and perfume notes are refined but expressive on the nose. The intensity perseveres on the light-plus bodied palate, with ripe red berry, modest herbal and mineral notes and balanced acidity that works with the bright effervescence to provide a bright, zippy lift to this brut rose. Fantastic value — picked this up at Banville & Jones. 91/100</p> <p class="p2"> <br /> <b>ROSÉ WINE</b></p> <p class="p1"> <b>Galil Mountain 2011 Rosé</b> (Upper Galilee, Israel – around $16, private wine stores)</p> <p class="p1"> I tried this dry kosher pink wine at the International Value Wine Awards in June, and to my knowledge it's only available at Kenaston Wine Market. Perfume, cherry candy, floral and secondary mineral notes on the nose are both delicate and enticing. Juicy cherry and ripe strawberry flavours showed well on the palate, with that light minerality and a splash of acidity lifting the flavours beyond all the other rosés I tried it against except one. I could tell you which one, but then I’d have to kill you. 88/100</p> <p class="p2"> <br /> <b>WHITE WINE</b></p> <p class="p1"> <b>Black Tower2011 Limited Summer Edition Rivaner</b> (Rhein, Germany - $10.75, Liquor Marts and beyond)</p> <p class="p1"> Very pale straw in colour, this Rivaner (also known as Muller-Thurgau in the world of grapes) shows red apple skin, mineral, slate, pear and peach candy aromas. It's light-bodied, simple and a touch sweet, with peach, ripe apple and pineapple flavours but without much to add complexity or depth. 85/100</p> <p class="p1"> <b>Rosemount Estate 2011 Pinot Grigio</b> (South Eastern Australia - $14.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)</p> <p class="p1"> Summer is the season to be drinking Pinot Grigio, and the Rosemount does well when well-chilled. Mineral and floral aromas work in tandem with fresh peach and pear notes. It’s a dry, light-bodied, and fresh example of this grape, with lemon-lime, pear and peach candy flavours highlighted by a splash of acidity. 87/100</p> <p class="p2"> <b>Quails Gate 2010 Chardonnay</b> (Okanagan Valley, British Columbia — $18.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)</p> <p class="p1"> Flint, mineral, peach, red apple and a hint of vanilla and spice are on display on the nose, and quite nicely. This medium-bodied Chardonnay is ripe but restrained, with fully developed yet still-subtle apple, peach and spice flavours, a hint of tangerine and a touch of vanilla from oak aging. This is a fantastic, fresh example of how oaked Chardonnay can successfully balance fresh fruit and wood. Canadian Wine Awards judges spent a fantastic evening at Quails Gate last week during the Canadian Wine Awards, although I tried this wine elsewhere, so no bias. I swear. 90/100</p> <p class="p2"> <b>Daniel Belda 2010 Verdil Blanc Jove</b> (Valencia, Spain — around $15, private wine stores, I think)</p> <p class="p1"> Verdil is the grape here, and this nicely packaged Spanish white is fascinating — the nose brings melon, pear syrup (think fruit cocktail), red apple, and just a hint of some sweaty spice. It's just as intriguing on the medium-bodied palate — nut, pear, red apple and a slightly salty note are slightly reminiscent of a dry sherry. This white screams tapas when chilled right down. 88/100</p> <p class="p2"> <b>RED WINE</b></p> <p class="p1"> <b>Brazin 2008 (B)old Vine Zin</b> (Lodi, California - $20.98, Liquor Marts and beyond)</p> <p class="p1"> Raisin, cinnamon, blackberry, blueberry and light spice notes on the nose are unquestionably Zinfandel-esque. Ripe, full-bodied and soft, the Brazin brings chewy blackberry, raisin, plum, and raspberry jam on the palate, with light tannin and acidity that keep this wine from becoming too plush or one-dimensional. A great pizza wine or drink with ribs, burgers or spaghetti with meat sauce. 87/100</p> <p class="p2"> <b>Bodegas Osborne 2009 Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon</b> (Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain - $13.21, Liquor Marts and beyond)</p> <p class="p1"> This Spanish red blend brings raspberry, leather, cassis, mint and herbal spices on the nose. It's a juicy, medium-bodied red that's generous with raspberry, cassis and tart strawberry flavours, with solid supporting flavours of licorice, spice and caramel. With only four months in oak the tannins are very light, and there's some modest acidity that would do well with marinara pastas, pizza or milder Latin American dishes. 86/100</p> <p class="p2"> <b>Bisquertt 2010 La Joya Reserve Merlot </b>(Colchagua Valley, Chile - $15.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)</p> <p class="p1"> In addition to plum, espresso and blackberry notes, the La Joya shows pretty cocoa, blueberry and bell pepper aromas on the nose. Full-bodied and jammy, the dark berry notes show most prominently on the palate, with blueberry jam, black tea, spice, vanilla and white pepper flavours wrapped in light but firm tannin. This Merlot has a healthy dose of structure and complexity for the price, which is especially nice to see from a grape that can often be made to be plush and overly jammy. 89/100</p> <p class="p2"> <b>Tommasi 2010 Arele Appassimento</b> (Veneto, Italy - $22.42, Liquor Marts and beyond)</p> <p class="p1"> Raisin, spice, cherry and vanilla aromas on the nose are intense on this Italian red made primarily from indigenous/regional grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, Oseleto and Merlot) that are partially dried before being pressed and fermented. The resulting wine is big and chewy, with intense raisin, dried cherry, licorice, leather and raspberry flavours as well as light tannins and balanced acidity. Pair with a big, meaty Italian dish – osso buco, perhaps. Tasted during the Winnipeg Wine Festival. 90/100</p> <p class="p2">  </p> <p class="p2">  </p> <p class="p2">  </p> <p class="p2">  </p> <p class="p2">  </p> <p class="p2">  </p> <p>  </p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:4f4801f2-52e9-4bbf-84cb-71b1c2aeedd0 It's a tough job, but someone has to do it http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3a27782274-bd92-44f6-9333-f9db3e3a30ff&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Mon, 13 Aug 2012 23:22:00 GMT <p> Quick update from Penticton before I head down to the beach for a frosty beverage...</p> <p> I'm out here in the heart of B.C. wine country as a judge for <em>Wine Access</em> magazine's <a href="http://wineaccess.ca/cwa" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">2012 Canadian Wine Awards</a>. This is the fifth year I've been lucky enough to judge at this competition, and after tasting 12 flights of wine — anywhere from eight to 10 glasses of one type of wine/grape variety at a time — I'm pretty pleased the quality level of many of these wines.</p> <p> Over 1,200 wines were submitted to the competition this year from across the country, which makes for busy days. Example: I tasted about 45 wines before lunch today, and just as many after. Three flights of Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigios, three flights of red blends, one group of oaked Chardonnay, ten Vidal icewines, a handful of Riesling, one flight each of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, and seven meads (honey-based wines).</p> <p> It's a lot of fun and a fantastic way to take the pulse of Canada's wineries (healthy and getting healthier every year), but it's also extremely tiring on the palate. Teeth are purple, gums get progressively more sensitive throughout the week, and by the end all you want is an ice cold beer.</p> <p> Judges also get to meet and eat with many winemakers in the evenings — last night, for example, we hung out and played bocce with a bunch of lovely folks from Naramata wineries.</p> <p> By the end of the week I'll hopefully be able to pull together my thoughts on where the Canadian wine industry is headed — in the meantime, I'll be <a href="http://twitter.com/bensigurdson" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">tweeting</a> throughout the week from the judging room (and follow the <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/search/cwa2012" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">#CWA2012 hashtag</a> to hear all the judges' thoughts on wines).</p> <p> Now, yes... beach... beer...</p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:27782274-bd92-44f6-9333-f9db3e3a30ff Canadian wines could flow between provinces http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3a2ccadbdb-9bea-4d95-976d-06fc72963fa4&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Thu, 07 Jun 2012 15:46:00 GMT <p> Bill C-311 passed third reading unanimously in the House of Commons yesterday - the private member's bill introduced by Okanagan-Coquihalla MP <a href="http://daninottawa.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Dan Albas</a> updates the 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA) to allow individuals to transport Canadian wine between provinces for personal use, and/or allow Canadian wineries to ship directly to consumers' homes in other provinces. (Incidentally, cider appears to fall under the wine umbrella in the Act's definition of the drink.)</p> <p class="p2"> But Canadian wine lovers shouldn't get too excited yet - the private member's bill still has to clear the Senate (which is likely but not until fall). Also, provincial liquor boards get final say when it comes to whether or not they allow shipping into their respective provinces. The bill essentially takes the federal law out of the equation and passes the buck to provinces. Joyce Reynolds, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, has already released a letter saying the amendment to the IILA doesn't go far enough, and that restaurants should also be able to order directly from Canadian wineries as well (that letter is <a href="http://www.crfa.ca/aboutcrfa/newsroom/2012/regarding_bill_c-311.asp" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">here</a>).</p> <p class="p2"> It will be interesting to see which provinces (if any) decide to move first on implementing the bill once it's through the Senate. If I were a betting man I'd wager BC moves first--after all, it was a BC MP that tabled the bill, and the province should see increased revenue in the form of taxation on wines being shipped out of province. Expect the <a href="http://freemygrapes.ca/welcome.shtml" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Free My Grapes</a> people to push hard to get that province and others to move on the bill once all the hurdles are cleared.</p> <p class="p1"> ***</p> <p class="p2"> You shouldn't swim after eating or drinking for at least an hour--at least that's what I was told by my parents as a kid--but there shouldn't be too many issues in that department at next Thursday's Sport Manitoba beer and food event at the Winnipeg Winter Club. Dubbed <em><a href="http://www.sportmanitoba.ca/news_view.php?id=389" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Craft Beer, Food Fusion</a></em>, the event kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and features a beer tasting followed by a four-course meal paired with craft beer. Participating breweries include Winnipeg's own Half Pints and Fort Garry as well as Nova Scotia's Garrison, Quebec's Unibroue, Saskatchewan's Paddock Wood and Alberta's Alley Kat. </p> <p class="p2"> Tickets for the event are $125 and support Sport Manitoba's Para Swimming and Provincial Team Programming; they're available by calling 925-5778 or by emailing <a href="mailto:swim@sportmanitoba.ca" rel="nofollow">swim@sportmanitoba.ca</a>.</p> <p class="p2"> I'd be there myself if I wasn't tasting and judging at <em>Wine Access</em>' <a href="http://wineaccess.ca/ivwa" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">International Value Wine Awards</a> in Calgary next week. The competition sees wines under $25 compete for hardware in a number of categories - I'll do my best to update this space with my thoughts throughout the week, and will be sure to tweet about it as well at <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/bensigurdson" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">@bensigurdson</a> (or follow the Twitter hashtag at <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23ivwa2012" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">#IVWA2012</a> to hear from all the judges).</p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:2ccadbdb-9bea-4d95-976d-06fc72963fa4 Wine Fest update pt.2 http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3adc37b41b-3f2a-4af9-a9a7-8d16d9a10faf&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Thu, 03 May 2012 20:25:00 GMT <p>  </p> <p class="p1"> With a couple hours at home - away from the hustle and bustle that is the 2012 WInnipeg Wine Festival - I figured I'd pop back in here and get caught up on what's been going on around town so far…</p> <p class="p2"> Last night was the wineries of British Columbia and Ontario took centre stage at the incredible Qualico Family Centre in Assiniboine Park for the event called "Experience Canada's Premiere Wine Regions: A Taste of Ontario and British Columbia VQA Wines." The name says it all; for those not familiar with VQA, it stands for Vintners' Quality Alliance. Both BC and Ontario have their own VQA boards; in short, these boards evaluate wines submitted by wineries, verifying where the grapes come from and tasting through the products before awarding the VQA designation to a wine. Wines designated as VQA essentially come from where they say they come from and are made from the grapes listed on the label (as opposed to the Cellared in Canada wines made by some larger Canadian wineries from juice brought in from other countries).</p> <p class="p2"> The turnout was great, the new building is incredible, and scores of winemakers and other representatives from the two regions were on hand to pour their wines and answer questions - it was easily the best incarnation of this annual event that I've attended so far.</p> <p class="p2"> The previous night featured wine and food events across town, including sold out winemaker dinners at Deseo, Fusion Grill and Mise. Each of these three restos hosted Canadian winemakers, and reports from both attendees and the guest speakers were that the food was outstanding. I would have loved to attend one fog these events, but I had a pretty darn good time hosting the Wine Access/Joey event at Joey Polo Park. The other Tuesday night event was "The Motorcycle Diaries of Wine" - a South American-themed tasting - held at Hermanos. As it happens I haven't talked to anyone that attended, but I'm fairly certain it was just as popular as the rest of the events.</p> <p class="p2"> Tonight's the big gala dinner at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. I've attended the gala dinner for many years, and it's always a great time. Two wines from the theme region(s) are poured with each of the five courses, and there's a live auction as well as a silent auction featuring some pretty special wines, trips and other cool stuff. Last year, you may recall, I forked out a whopping $450 for the 1975 (my birth year) Mouton Rothschild - <a href="http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/columnists/but-its-for-a-good-cause-honey-121825184.html" target="_blank">a purchase that landed me right in the proverbial doghouse</a>. (I still haven't drunk it, actually - I'm afraid I'm going to open it and it'll be vinegar.)</p> <p class="p2"> Anyway, I've decided to forego the dinner this year. Part of the reason is that I'm running the <a href="http://www.wpshalfmarathon.ca/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">WPS Half Marathon</a> on Sunday, and this festival week isn't doing much in the way of rest or hydration. It's also the reason I'm skipping the Saturday night tasting, which is a pile of fun but always leads to a late night post-fest get together with out-of-towners and others. You'd be surprised how much wine reps/winemakers/etc. love drinking beer. Well, maybe that's not so surprising, I guess.</p> <p class="p2"> Tomorrow morning I'm hitting the MLCC Industry Breakfast for the first time - from what I gather it's a sort of state-of-the-union type of thing. I'll be interested to see if the soon-to-be-amalgamated MLCC/Manitoba Lotteries topic is discussed at all. Anyway, <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/bensigurdson" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">I'll tweet the good stuff</a> if/when I can, as well as fire off some tweets from tomorrow night's public tasting - provided I can manage some elbow room. I've heard ticket sales for all weekend public tastings are quite strong.</p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:dc37b41b-3f2a-4af9-a9a7-8d16d9a10faf Winnipeg Wine Festival update, part 1 http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3a680a958d-e728-42f9-86aa-39ff067e3c59&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Tue, 01 May 2012 19:48:00 GMT <p> A couple of days into the Winnipeg Wine Festival’s ancillary events and so far everything seems to be going tickety-boo.</p> <p> Things kicked off Sunday at Niakwa Golf & Country Club as they always do with “World of Wine.” A wide cross-section of wines was being poured, but most of the wines that caught my attention seemed to be from Spain. The <strong>Segura Viudas Brut Vintage 2008</strong> is a lean, crisp, mineral-driven sparkling wine that delivers good value for $17.20. I quite liked the <strong>Donna Danna 2010 Rias Baixas</strong> as well – this Spanish white showed a fair bit of nut and pear notes, again with some up-front minerality. It might be a bit weird for some people’s tastes, but I loved it, and for $15.99 it’s a great value.</p> <p> Two reds really stood out for me at this tasting – the <strong>Torres 2009 Celeste</strong> and the <strong>Mustiguillo 2008 Mestís</strong>. The former is a Tempranillo-based red and the latter is half Bobal (an indigenous Spanish grape) and a blend of other more well-known grapes. For more on these, check out this weekend’s column.</p> <p> Sunday evening moved the festivities to Rudy’s Eat & Drink, a stylish restaurant and bar located in the Manitoba Hydro building downtown. It has a great retro look that worked well for the Aussie-themed “Party’s Outback” event. The look is sort of <em>Mad Men</em>-ish – think upscale Ray & Jerry’s but with brown colours instead of red. The kitchen had prepared some Aussie-themed finger food that I never got a chance to taste, but I was told it was good.</p> <p> In contrast to the retro look, Rudy’s has screens that were showing Twitter feeds throughout the event, and the bar features iPads patrons can play with while enjoying a beer or cocktail. A photographer was taking pictures of people holding Aussie-themed props, which were then added to a rotating collection of pictures being broadcast on one wall.</p> <p> Oh yeah, the wines. There weren’t a ton of whites, but of those that I tried my favourite by far was the <strong>Mitchell Watervale Riesling</strong> from Clare Valley. It’s dry, lean, and flinty, but the green apple and lemon notes retain an intensity that brings balance. Clare Valley Riesling is one of my favourite wine categories right now, and for $22.15 this one’s worth every penny and more.</p> <p> The reds I tried were quite good for the most part – again, I’ve highlighted a few in this weekend’s column, so check that out. One thing I will say is that the regional diversity I found when I travelled across Australia last May is starting to come through more and more in the bottles that are landing on our shelves. Having said that, I was pretty surprised that I only found one Pinot Noir among the reds (the very good <strong>Nepenthe 2008 Good Doctor</strong> from Adelaide Hills). I had piles of Pinot when I was in Australia – from cooler-climate regions like Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and beyond – but it’s just not a category that seems to be taking off here in Manitoba.</p> <p> Last night I popped into Promenade Café & Wine for the “20 Wines under $20” event, which was pretty much exactly as advertised. Once all the redecorating and renos are done (imminently, I’m told), it’ll be a great spot for food, wine and live music with a small patio and a great view.</p> <p> One thing I’ll say off the hop about this event is that I was glad to be able to use some nice glassware rather than the smallish, cheap rental tasting glasses so often found at these events. With only 20 wines in the house, I was able to motor around the room pretty quickly and taste through a bunch, most of which were good to very good values. Some of my favourites were the <strong>Errazuriz 2009 Max Reserva Carmenère</strong> (Chile - red), <strong>El Petit Bonhomme 2010</strong> (Spain - red), <strong>Yali 2009 Three Lagoons Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon</strong> (Chile - red), <strong>Segura Viudas Brut Rosé</strong> (Spain - sparkling), and <strong>Santa Julia 2009 Etiqueta Blanca</strong> (Argentina – red).</p> <p> My only complaint about this event: The Winnipeg Wine Festival website had it billed as running from 6:00 – 8:30 PM. I arrived at about 6:20, tasted through most of the wines by about 7:15, and by that time the finger food spread had already been mostly cleared away. Some people were enjoying the gorgeous view of the Forks and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (at least before the <a href="http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/Monday-fire-at-Forks-causes-40K-damage-149689455.html" target="_blank">dock fire started</a>), but others had left and it seemed as though the event would be winding down imminently rather than continuing for another hour-plus.</p> <p> Sadly, I didn’t make it to “Joe’s Italian Wine Night” at Bellissimo, but if the past few years were any indication I’m sure it was a night filled with good value Italian wines and killer food to match.</p> <p> Tonight I’ll be hosting the <em>Wine Access</em>/Joey Signature Series tasting at Joey’s Polo Park location. If you’re thinking about hitting an event tonight, there might be a few tickets left for this event or “The Motorcycle Diaries of Wine” South American themed tasting at Hermano’s. Most of the wine dinners happening tonight are already sold out.</p> <p> Oh yeah, I’m trying to tweet from each event as well via <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/bensigurdson" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">@bensigurdson</a>, but sometimes the notebook, pen, and wine glass in two hands doesn’t leave much room to manage a phone as well. I’ll do my best.</p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:680a958d-e728-42f9-86aa-39ff067e3c59 Winnipeg Wine Festival 2012 - the final countdown http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3aac36b97f-d936-4529-99e2-5cef6d140115&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Thu, 26 Apr 2012 19:17:00 GMT <p>  </p> <p> Count 'em up - three sleeps until the first ancillary event of the <a href="http://winnipegwinefestival.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Winnipeg Wine Festival</a> kicks off. From there it’s a week of wine dinners, tastings, and other events in venues around town in preparation for next weekend’s massive public tastings.</p> <p> While some of <a href="http://winnipegwinefestival.com/ancillary-events.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">the week’s ancillary events</a> are already sold out, a few tickets remain for others.<br /> <br /> <em>[Shameless plug – there are still a couple of tickets left for the <a href="https://specialolympics.tng-secure.com/?ticket=4340" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Wine Access Signature Series tasting</a> I’m co-hosting with JOEY sommelier Geoff Boyd at their Polo Park location next Tuesday. Ok, that plug did make me feel a bit of shame.]</em><br /> <br /> I wouldn’t sleep on getting tickets to the big public tastings either – the Saturday night tasting always sells out, and the Friday night tasting is typically close to capacity as well. If you want to taste the wines from the big show but don't want to brave the crowds, there's always the Saturday matinee tasting, which provides a bit more elbow room.</p> <p> With Ontario and British Columbia as this year’s theme regions, I’m looking forward to hearing about Winnipeg wine drinkers’ experiences trying Canadian reds and whites they may not have previously tasted. I think there’ll be a lot of pleasantly surprised oenophiles in this town by the time the festival wraps up.</p> <p> So often I hear people say they just don't drink Canadian wines. Their reasons are numerous (albeit mostly mis/uninformed): Canadian wines aren't as good as wines from other countries, we can't do reds as well as other countries, etc. Well, like most wine-producing countries, there are better and worse producers making wine here in Canada. I taste hundreds of Canadian wines every year, as well as hundreds of non-Canadian wines, and in both categories there are absolute beauties and total stinkers. And like other countries/regions making wine, Ontario and British Columbia have certain wines they do quite well. </p> <p> I've hinted at Canada's specialties in previous columns, but if you think I'm going to tell you what they are here, think again - you can find out by tasting for yourself at the festival. Proceeds go to Special Olympics Manitoba and if you don't like a wine you try, dump it out and move on. It's that simple.</p> <p> Check back in this space for updates/reviews throughout the week as I manage to find time to bang ‘em out. And follow me on Twitter (<a href="http://twitter.com/#!/bensigurdson" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">@bensigurdson</a>) to see where I’m at and what I’m tasting throughout the week - I’ll be attending at LEAST one event per day starting on Sunday.</p> <p> Oh, and never mind the fact that I'm running the WPS Half Marathon the day after the wine festival wraps up. Hydration issues galore, I imagine. But I digress - my problem, not yours.</p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:ac36b97f-d936-4529-99e2-5cef6d140115 Black Galaxy beer and Down Under delights http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/macphee/?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&UID=93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5&plckPostId=Blog%3a93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post%3a668bde6b-e4c2-4392-a0d6-4b84a4a606fd&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest Thu, 22 Mar 2012 16:28:00 GMT <p> Just a quick note to let you know about a couple of drink-related events coming up in Winnipeg over the next couple of days:</p> <p> - Half Pints Brewing Company released their Black Galaxy Casandian Dark Ale/Black IPA this past Saturday, and I'm sorry to say all the bottles (only 50 cases of the 650ml bottles) are already gone. However, if you're keen on trying the dark, hoppy, intense IPA, head down to the <a href="http://www.roundtablesteakhouse.ca/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Round Table Steakhouse</a> tonight at 7:00 p.m., as the brewery will be tapping a 50 litre keg of the stuff. It's definitely worth trying - I <a href="http://www.uptownmag.com/food-drink/brew-master/Sick-of-dyed-green-swill-142665926.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">reviewed the Black Galaxy in last week's beer column in Uptown Magazine</a>, the free weekly owned by the same folks that own the Free Press and the mag in which I'm doing most of my beer-related writing.</p> <p> Half Pints also have a beer dinner coming up with <a href="http://www.miserestaurant.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Mise Restaurant</a> (Corydon at Lilac) this coming Tuesday (March 27). The three-course meal (plus dessert and "intermission") features Half Pints beer paired with courses created by chef Terry Gereta just for the event. Tickets are $50 plus taxes and gratuity - call Mise at 284-7916 to book today.</p> <p> For more info on the Black Galaxy and the Mise dinner check out Half Pints' <a href="http://halfpintsbrewingco.blogspot.ca/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Brewer's Blog</a>.</p> <p> - The <a href="http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/cafe/" target="_blank">Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe</a> is holding an Australian-themed wine and food tasting tomorrow night. Six Aussie wines will be poured, and the cafe will be providing some tasty finger food for those in attendance. Plus, it's hosted by the always-charming Doug Speirs - although I can't vouch for his wine knowledge. Tickets are $50 per person and are available at the cafe or by calling Amber at 697-7069.</p> <p> Besides keeping you posted on wine/beer related-events, is there anything people want to see in this section? I often have more wine reviews than I can accomodate in the column, and was thinking I could post some here. I'll also pop in here and there and let you know if I have any hot tips - wine that's on sale, that's being discontinued, etc., and/or good deals on wine/etc. as restaurants and so forth. Finally, I'd be more than happy to answer wine-related questions in this space - if I can't answer them, I'll do my best to track down someone who can.</p> Blog:93dc4e58-1be8-4585-9b15-016f6840efe5Post:668bde6b-e4c2-4392-a0d6-4b84a4a606fd