Everything Wine blog

An evening of Italian Classics with Chris Sharpe!

I have learned many things since staring here at Everything Wine in North Vancouver. One of which is that Chris Sharpe knows an infinite amount of wine information; specifically, the wine he takes care of in theVintages Room. I take great pleasure in pestering him daily for little tid-bits of wine info. I'm sure you could imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to sit in on one of his tastings, the Italian Classics tasting at that. Two solid hours of listening and absorbing fun facts from Chris and tasting eight amazing Italian wines to match.


My night started with piling my plate high with cheese and meat, olives and walnuts, and sitting in front of eight glasses of wine. While chewing on an olive I perused the list of wines. Italy has some of the most expressive, unique wines and I had eight great examples in front of me. Also provided was a map of Italy indicating that we would be sampling from Piedmont in the northwest, Tuscany in west central Italy, and Valpolicella,in the northeast: three classic regions.


Our tasting started in Piedmont. Nebbiolo is Piedmont's most popular grape and, as Chris explained, is known for its tar and rose character which really came out in the first two wines, the first of which was Ca' du Rabaja 'Rabaja' Barbaresco 2007 ($89.99) from the Barbaresco region. The colour of the wine is light, which I learned is to be expected from Nebiollo. But do not be deceived. The pale hue does not reflect the intensity on the nose and palate (red cherries, baking spices, with the overarching classic tar and roses). The tannins were light and soft with great length. It paired wonderfully with the cheeses and meats. I can also see it going well with beef or duck.


Our second wine was the Beni Di Batasiolo Vigneto Cerequio Nebbiolo 2004 ($89.99) from Barolo, another sub region within Piedmont where it is considered the greatest example of Nebbiolo. Barolo is divided further into 11 communes each having their own distinct character. One of which is La Morra where our wine hailed. Chris explained that wines from La Mora tend to be more delicate and fragrant. Um, yeah. So delicate. So perfumed. On the nose roses jump out of the glass and on the palate more rose petal, cherries and rich plum with hints of spice, tobacco and chocolate. Chris suggested lamb as a food pairing and I couldn't agree more.

Next Chris took us to Tuscany. Tuscany is typically Sangiovese country; however, it is home to the famous Super Tuscans now labeled under IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) classification created for those wines made from non-traditional grape verities such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In theory an IGT does not have the states as a DOC, but the market says otherwise.

Many are extraordinary wines. Chris started our Tuscany tasting with two examples of IGT wines. The first,Tua Rita Perlato del Bosco 2009 ($59.99), a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The deep ruby wine has intense aromas of black ripe fruit with hints of fresh herbs. This is very drinkable now but could also hold for a few more years. Try this with pasta, fresh tomatoes, and mushrooms.


The second Tuscan was Casanova di Neri Pietradonice 2004 ($143.99). The blend is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Sangiovese. It showed incredible complexity on both the nose and palate of black current, leather and barnyard with herbaceous and floral notes. Wine Spectator gave it a classic score of 96/100 points. This would be lovely with a pork roast or just with some Parmesan cheese.


Chris poured our fifth wine: Monsanto Il Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 ($74.99). A traditional wine from the iconic Chianti region. Chianti Classico is the original, rather than expanded, zone. In this wine black cherries, herbs and spices are balanced with big ripe tannin with a long lingering finish. A great wine to put away for a few years.

Next was the Col D'Orcia Brunella di Montalcino 2006 ($73.99). Montalcino, located just south of Chianti, is made from 100% Sangiovese grown on sleep hillsides. Chris explained that this optimizes sun exposure and provides good drainage. This wine starts very fresh and fruity with strawberry and cherry then spice and tobacco notes extending to the finish.


Our seventh wine of the evening was the Tenuta di Trinoro 2005 ($249.99). Another IGT from Tuscany. Chris informed us that 2005 was a perfect year. Andrea Franchetti, the man behind the wine, harvested beautiful Merlot, but rain hit in October, diluting the other grapes left on the vine. This explains the blend of approximately 88% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot making up the remainder of the blend. This wine is anything but diluted with generous notes of raspberry, plum, vanilla and minerallity. Hints of mint and balsamic come through on the finish. Perfectly balanced, expressive and pure with great length, in a word, this wine is perfect.


Our last wine of the night brought us to northeast Italy, to Valpolicella, within the larger Verona region.Zenato Amarone de Valpolicella 2007 ($57.99) is one of my favorite styles of wine. Valpolicella is made from predominatly Corvina with Molinara and Rondinella as possible blend components. Amarone is a style of Valpolicella made from grapes that have been dried for months before fermentation. Since 50% of the juice is lost during the wait, the aromas and flavours are concentrated. On the palate intense spice, licorice and raisin with a hint of sweetness balanced perfectly with refreshing acidity. With it, Chris gave us dark chocolate to enjoy. Decadent.
This was my first Everything Wine tasting but I have been to many tastings and very few feature a flight at this caliber and hosted by someone as knowledgeable as Chris Sharpe. I am looking forward to attending future tasting here at Everything Wine. If you have not yet had the chance, it is worth it.

An Evening with Sir George Fistonich and the Wines of Villa Maria

“Villa Maria Estate and Winemaker Sir George Fistonich invite you to an exceptional wine dinner in celebration of their 50th vintage.”   That was the invitation I received a few weeks ago.  Let me think: dinner at Hawksworth, Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards recent winner for Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, Best New Restaurant, Best New Design and Best Upscale Restaurant?  I’m in.  Meeting and hanging out with Sir George Fistonich, owner and managing director of New Zealand’s most awarded winery?  Definitely in.  And yes, the “Sir” means he’s knighted; can’t say I’ve had a glass of wine with a Knight before…


Needless to say, I was looking forward to last week’s wine dinner.  The reception started off with some tasty bites of whipped chevre gougeres, vanilla cured salmon on a black sesame blini, and pheasant confit with fig and pinenuts, all of which paired beautifully with the chilled Villa Maria Private Bin Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.  This lightly sparkling Sauvignon Blanc really pops with the flavours of gooseberry, passion fruit, grapefruit and melon.  It has a slight hint of herbaceousness which adds to its complexity, finishes crisp and clean, with a lingering sparkle in the mouth.  Although this wine isn’t available yet in the Province, it soon will be, and it will definitely be one to watch for.


Next was the first course, a yellowfin tuna tar tare, with whipped yuzu, avocado and puffed rice.  Two Sauvignon Blancs were paired with this course, the Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2011, and the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2011.  The vibrant Private Bin is nicely balanced with fresh citrus notes and a juicy, mouthwatering acidity.  My favourite of the two, the Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc is beautifully intense and lively. Its vibrant palette overflows with melon, gooseberry and lime.  It has a slightly weighty mouthfeel and finishes with a crisp, delicate richness.  Delicious!


Our second course was a Szechuan spiced pork belly, with buckwheat honey glaze, heart of palm, and green papaya slaw, paired with the Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Gris 2011.  The wine was poured first, and while we waited a few moments for our plates, I couldn’t help but give the wine a quick try.  I was immediately hit with the aromas of apple and pear, which were mirrored on the palate.  It has a soft, silky, almost textured mouthfeel and a nice dry finish that matched up perfectly to the decadent richness of the pork belly.


Third course was a seared lamb loin, with medjool date puree, crunchy rice, and a rutabaga and cous cous tian.  The savoury Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2010 ($27.99) was chosen to go along with this dish.  A gentle sniff and my nose was filled with ripe cherry, raspberry and a touch of spice.  With its abundant red fruit on the palate, it is soft and silky, with delicate tannins and a gentle touch of oak and spice.  A delicious pinot that I’ll be turning to again in the future I’m sure.


Lastly, we finished our dinner with soy braised beef short ribs with spiced carrot puree, crunchy rice, and Asian pear.  The Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010 was called in to action here, and its dark cherry, plum and spice notes did not disappoint.  This Pinot Noir was fuller bodied than the first, with elegant flavours of plum and spice; it easily stood up to the big beefy flavours of the braised short ribs.  A delicate, lingering finish rounds out the experience, and each taste begged for another.


As our night wound down to close, we were treated with a glass of the 2006 Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir.  Packed with the flavours of dark cherry, red cherry, plum, the subtle hint of clove, and a long lingering finish, this elegant, classically styled Pinot was the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.
I had the honour of chatting with Sir George Fistonich for a while, and his calm, gentle demeanor made it feel like I was chatting with an old friend.  In 1961, at the mere age of 21, he leased a portion of land from his father, and with only one acre of vines, he founded Villa Maria, producing his first vintage the very next year.  Since that time, Sir George has spent the last 50 years leading the charge in New Zealand winemaking.  He is overflowing with passion for what he does and the wines he produces, and his attention to detail and love of his craft are evident in each and every one of the wines I had the pleasure of tasting.  Sir George, thank you for a fantastic evening!

My "Discover New Zealand" Tasting Experience

I had the absolute pleasure of walking into the classroom this past Wednesday at the North Vancouver Everything Wine to partake in the evening’s wine tasting, “Discover New Zealand: It’s not just Sauvignon Blanc”, hosted by John McLaughlin, an employee of Everything Wine who recently returned from his travels around Australia and New Zealand. While I have attended several tastings at Everything Wine over the past couple of years, this one was completely original. John took us on a journey around the New Zealand wine country and while reminiscing on his travel highlights, took the fifteen participants on a wine journey as well. For each stop along the highlights on his trip, John introduced a wine from that region, and while the first two were Sauvignon Blancs, of which New Zealand is famous for, he showed us that NZ has way more to offer than the traditional standard grassy green acidic Sauv Blancs, which are loved by so many. Before the tasting, had you asked me if I enjoyed New Zealand wines, I probably would have danced around the question and talked about another country, and I’m not knocking anyone who loves NZ wines… I just wasn’t a New Zealand fan... that is, until last Wednesday when John showed us some alternatives and my eyes were opened.

John began the course with some facts about the vast country of New Zealand. He informed us that there are about 4 million people in New Zealand, of which about 1.3million of them live in Auckland. Many people assume that Auckland is the capital city, however John corrected that misguided assumption and informed us that Wellington is, in fact, the capital city, which has about 350,000 residents. For the most part, New Zealand itself is a land covered in wine fields, and considering it was the last country in the world to be populated, is considered to be the fastest growing wine region on the planet.


John began the journey around New Zealand with the 2011 Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc ($24.99). Very typical to the region, this wine has a very light lemon colour, with a green nose (think grass and asparagus). The acidity of this wine is quite high, and ends in a sharp crisp finish while a subtle refreshing finish lingers on the back of the tongue. John explained that this is a classic Marlborough Region Sauvignon Blanc providing a delicious, herbaceous and vegetal wine that would be perfect with a salad, light fish, or to simply sip on the patio on a summer’s day.

From there John introduced us to another Sauvignon Blanc, this time from the Martinborough region, Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc. This wine possessed a noticeably rounder flavour, had an even higher acidic structure on the pallet, and yet was much softer and less green than the Jules Taylor. While it may seem odd to describe, the nose had a definite petrol aroma to it. "Petrol?" I know, you wouldn't think that it would be a characteristic to describe a wine, however John made it clear that we weren't making things up.... it's an aroma that is typical of the Ata Rangi region and is a good thing. As one who has an odd love of the smell of gasoline, I was immediately intrigued by this wine, and instantly determined that what I considered to be a typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was only a small portion of the wines the country has to offer.

Then it was time to move on from the Sauvignon Blanc comparison and take a step in the direction of theme of the evening, "... Not Just Sauvignon Blanc". John's NZ journey took us back to the Marlborough region as we tasted the 2008 Babich Pinot Gris ($22.99). What was interesting about this Pinot Gris was that it has had some time in oak barrels during fermentation, and as a result, a much rounder, more complex wine is created that is unlike any Pinot Gris I have ever tasted. Coming forward are strong notes of pears, peaches, and a plethora of stone fruits, and while the body of the wine is round and complex to the point where you ponder on if you’re tasting a Chardonnay, the finish leaves an oily texture on your tongue longing for another sip, which is a varietally correct result of a Pinot Gris. Of all the whites, this was by far my favourite, and would be a perfect wine to pair with duck, veal, or chicken.

To finish off the first half of the evening, we tasted the 2010 Greywacke Riesling ($35.99). John gave us a little hint about the background of the winery itself and told us how Greywacke is, in fact, a type of rock in New Zealand, and is the namesake for this wine. This Riesling is made by the world famous Winemaker, Kevin Judd, who, after years of mastering the art of winemaking for other labels, decided he wanted to make his own wine. Compared to many I’ve tasted over the years, this Riesling is sweeter than I had expected or experienced, yet was taken aback by the hefty petrol smell on the nose. I thought the Ata Rangi had a strong petrol smell at first, but then I went back to it and determined that while the Ata Rangi had, what I now described as a "slight" petrol smell, there was no mistaking that this Riesling had much more of a predominant petrol aroma to it. It borught up a good tip from John that when tasting and comparing wines, to always leave a little in your glass as you work your way through the flight so that should you wish to compare a previously tasted wine, you can. Getting back to the Greywacke; the first taste was brilliant! My mouth was immediately filled with ripe peach and tropical flavours combined with a little zest, and finished with a high acidic finish which John explained helped balance the high residual sugar. John suggesting pairing this wine with a heftier fish, or a goat cheese salad. While the Babich Sauv Blanc was my favourite of the whites, thus proving that there is a NZ wine I like, the Greywacke was the most interesting of the lineup and is one that I would definitely serve at a dinner party!

We took a quick break to stretch our legs and nibble on some of the incredible cheeses and crackers that were served to go along with the wines, and started part two of John’s journey around New Zealand wines.

John took us back up to Marlborough and introduced us to the 2008 Wither Hills Pinot Noir ($34.99). After one sniff of the nose of the wine, I knew I was going to enjoy this, as I’ve recently been on an Pinot fix. On the palate, this wine was bright, and fruitful, with a delicious combination of light red fruits and spice. Unlike the Pinot’s big brothers, this wine had a soft delicate body and was followed by a smooth lingering finish. Ideally you would pair this wine alongside duck, ham, and of course, a Turkey, but I’d argue that this wine stands alone and is the perfect one to sip on throughout an evening. John did mention that though there are a few wines you could choose to lay down and cellar for a couple years, the Wither Hills Pinot Noir is best served during the year in which it was released. And really, while I have a couple wines in my collection that I’m saving, this is one I’d be taking along to the next dinner party to have that night in the company of good friends and laughter.

Next on our journey, John took us to a new location on the map: Central Otago, which is located on the Southern Island of New Zealand, and is a region with possessed the hottest, coolest, driest region which just happens to be the most southern wine region in the world. This made for a great Pinot Noir comparison as the environmental conditions in which these vines grow are so vastly different.

The 2009 Akarua Pinot Noir ($39.99) had an even more delicate nose, and was so soft that I had to take a real deep inhale to pick up on the delicious aromas within. While the nose was soft and secretive with a hint of spice, the first sip on the palate was quite an experience. Rated 91 points by Robert Parker, this Pinot Noir had an incredible taste of smooth earthy red fruits with hints of vanilla, light in body, and to some degree, not quite at its peak. In conversation we were surprised how much we favoured the Wither Hills, to which John explained that this Pinot Noir is quite young and is one to buy now and keep for 5-6 years. If the wine was that complex and interested today, who knows how delicious this will be in 2017? That’s the fun of the wine collecting game!

To conclude the evening, John took us all full circle up to the region of Hawkes Bay on the North Island. This region is New Zealand’s oldest and is the location in which all of the best NZ reds are produced thanks to the Maritime Climate influence. John informed us that Craggy Range is the largest producer in Hawkes Bay, and what better way to conclude the evening’s tasting than sampling the 2009Craggy Range Te Kahu Red Blend ($34.99). This big boy was quite different from the other two reds as this was Craggy Range’s Bordeaux blend which John informed us was a blend of Merlot (80%), Cab and Malbec. It came as no surprise that this wine was much bigger in body, had great tannins and left a spicy sensation on the underside of my tongue, longing for another sip. With its lovely long finish, the Te Kahu is an incredible wine for its value. John mentioned that while visiting this winery, he saw sheep actually roaming around the vines in the winery fields, and when he question the reason for this, was informed that many wineries allow their sheep to roam the fields as their hooves turn over the soil, they inadvertently fertilize the soil as they feed on the low hanging grapes and essentially help produce some fantastic wines. That alone was one of the the coolest facts alone I took away from John’s New Zealand tasting.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been to several wine tastings over the past couple of years at Everything Wine and I must say that this was by far one of my most favourite. John was well educated on the wines he taught about and had so many visuals to go along. He literally took us on a journey around New Zealand, showing us personal pics from his travels, and he included some amazing tourist tips. What was so refreshing was how he had selected wines from a variety of regions. We were able to see and learn where the wines were grown and how you may have two Pinot Noirs or Sauv Blancs from the same country, yet have completely different experiences. If you ever have a chance to attend one of John’s future tastings, I sincerely urge you to do so. And as for me, well, it appears that I need to start a new savings account, as I’m clearly heading to New Zealand to relive John’s travels as soon as I can.


Que Syrah Shiraz

I am often asked the about the difference between Syrah and Shiraz.  The truth is that they are the same grape!  So why the different name?

To answer that question you have to dive a little deeper into the grape’s history.  While there are many rumours that this grape has origins in Shiraz, Ancient Persia, it found a perfect home in the Cote Du Rhone in France.  Here, the French called it Syrah, and it thrived, becoming a main component in some of the countries best wines including the famed Hermitage.  In 1831, James Busby is known for bringing the Syrah grape from France to its other favourite location, Australia.  Originally these wines were labeled Hermitage in honour of the great French Syrah’s, however due to changes in wine laws in France that protected the names of regions, Hermitage in Australia had to change.  The name Shiraz was chosen to distinguish itself from French wines.

Stylistic comparisons of this grape plainly show two different styles according to the region and winemaking.  The French Syrah is traditionally made in an elegant, earthier style full of black pepper whereas Australian Shiraz is juicy and rich focusing on intense ripe fruit flavours.

Nowadays, no matter the name, this grape has become one of the 10 most grown grapes in the world.  In emerging wine regions like Canada, the choice to use either Syrah or Shiraz comes down to whether their wine emulates the classic Rhone or the modern Australian style.

My suggestion is to try an example of each and find the style you prefer the most.  I recommend tryingCave de Tain Saint Joseph from the Northern Rhone or Penfold’s Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz from the Barossa Valley as a comparison starting point.

Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2010 Unveiled at Morgan Crossing!

Each December, Wine Spectator releases a list of the top 100 wines from the past year. In 2010, more than 15800 wines were reviewed.

The top 100 consists of wine from 14 different Countries with an average score of 93 points, and an average price of $48(USD) dollars a bottle. These wines are all “outstanding” or “classic” ratings, 90+ points. They are ranked using 4 factors, quality, value, availability, and an X-factor they call “excitement.”

To some, this list is a Bible. To others, such as some of my classmates for the Top 100 class at Everything Wine Morgan Crossing it is something they would like to know more about. Our teacher, Almira, put on a wonderful evening class where we tasted 6 wines on the Top 100 of 2010.

Once the top 100 wines are named, they are extremely hard to find. Collectors all around North America are trying to get their hands on these wines. This class not only gave students a chance to learn about the top 100 wines, but also buy a few of the wines that are in very high demand for the last month and a half.

The wines:

#48 – Mumm Cuvee Brut Napa Valley Prestige NV - $25.99

This is a very crisp sparkling wine, the nose is full of green apple with light hints of yeast. On the palate it has great acidity with apple and citrus flavours, it has a great finish full of fruit and vanilla. 90 Points Wine Spectator

#52 – Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva 2005 - $23.49

Very big black currant flavours with lots of smoky and earthy notes. Firm tannins and a long finish, this wine could easily age for 3 or 4 more years. 91 points Wine Spectator

#62 – Trimbach Riesling 2004 - $32.99

This beautiful dry Riesling has great mineral notes which work great with the light peach and lemon and green apple flavors. It has great acid and a very long finish. 92 points Wine Spectator

#63 - D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red Blend 2008 - $14.99

A blend of grenache shiraz and mouvedre, this red is full of sweet berry fruit flavors. Black cherry, strawberry and a bit of heat from the alcohol combine in this very impressive wine. Great value!

90 points Wine Spectator

#68 - Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2009 – $26.99

My personal favourite of the evening, this wine shows ripe plum fruit with raspberry/blackberry jam aromas. This Malbec really shows its terroir with hints of graphite on the nose and palate. 91 points Wine Specator

#88 – St Cosme Cotes Du Rhone 2009 - $19.99

Very floral on the nose, this old world red shows great dark fruit flavors followed by earthy charcoal. This wine still has very grippy tannins so I would recommend decanting for at least an hour. 90 points Wine Spectator.
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