My Chilean Wine Adventure

This story includes two stories I did for the Telegraph Journal Provincial Edition from when I was in Chile in the late fall of 2013. I have added some additional pictures that did not run in the print edition.


The gorgeous Santa Rita estate

PART I  – The Diversity of Chile’s Wine Regions

Having recently spent two full weeks in Chile, the first on a Wines of Chile sponsored trip for journalists to key wine regions, and the second on a holiday with my wife, my article this week is focused on the diversity of terroir and grapes in this impressive wine country. I will also do a follow-up column on some specific trends, but this week is more of an overview.

Chile is a long, skinny country, only averaging 177 km in width, and covering an awesome amount of latitude – from S 17° to 56° – a total of over 5,000 km. Not surprisingly, a country that size, with an agreeable Mediterranean climate, has a lot of suitable terroir for grape growing. Adding to that, the country is blessed with two long mountain ranges running parallel to each other – the towering Andes and the ‘shorter’ Coastal range – a large number of valleys, and the cooling influence of winds from the Pacific Ocean to the east and the high altitude Andes mountains to the west. As a result, Chile has a seemingly endless number of choices for vineyards when it comes to temperature, altitude, angle to the sun, slope, and soil. Granted, there isn’t much rain, but they use irrigation where needed, and for now there is enough water.

There isn’t wine made from tip to tip, but there are wine regions as far north as the Elqui Valley at 30°, and as far south (that’s colder, remember) as the Malleco Valley at 38°. More extreme regions are being considered. That said, the bulk of the wine production centres on a much tighter area, mainly in the valleys around and just south of the capital Santiago, namely Aconcagua, Maipo, Casablanca, San Antonio, Leyda, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Curico, and Maule. I visited all of these except Maule on my trip.

We in the wine business have traditionally classified Chile only by these valleys, but their industry has very recently reorganized their appellation system, recognizing Costa (Coastal), Entre Cordilleras (the flatter area between the mountain ranges), and Andes areas. They did this to reflect the fact that where you are in relation to the ocean and mountains is as or more important as how far north or south you are. Costa areas are cooler and sometimes foggy, the flatter areas are hotter, and the Andes areas can be quite cool, especially if they are planting at high elevations. The cool Costa areas are typically planted with white grapes, plus Pinot Noir; the flatter areas are basically red wine territory, and the Andes has a mix, as the big difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures can result in both elegant red and white wines.

In terms of grapes, the most common red varieties for quality wines are: Cabernet Sauvignon ~ 41,000 hectares (ha) planted, Merlot ~ 10,000 ha, Carmenere ~ 9,000 ha, Syrah ~ 6,000 ha, but there are also significant amounts of Malbec, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Carignan, plus 12,000-15,000 ha of El Pais, the original European wine grape brought to Chile by Spanish Conquistadores almost 500 years ago, and known as the Mission grape in California. There is also a large amount of grapes, including muscat, grown for making Pisco, the nation’s main spirit, often used in the Pisco Sour cocktail. For white grapes, they have: Chardonnay ~ 13,000 ha, Sauvignon Blanc ~ 12,000 ha, plus a bit of Viognier and Riesling. Although there is more Chardonnay planted, Sauvignon Blanc is often the only white wine available by the glass at everyday restaurants, based on my week as a tourist. As an aside, wine is relatively inexpensive in Chile. We rarely paid over $20 Cdn for a bottle of good wine in a restaurant, and a glass of wine that would cost $8-12 here is only $5-7 there.

We had a fairly busy schedule, first visiting Santa Carolina, one of the oldest wineries, right in Santiago, part of Maipo, then heading to the other big producers, Concha Y Toro – Chile’s largest winery – then Santa Rita, also in Maipo, all on the same day. Although large producers, these wineries all make a wide range of quality wines, from good value $10-12 juice right up to super premium $100+ “icon” wines. Highlights included the great value Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon from all three wineries, as well as some of their oddballs and specialties, like the potent Gran Reserva Petit Verdot from Santa Carolina, a three vintage vertical (96, 02 and 09) of Chile’s first icon wine, the fantastic Don Melchor Cabernet from Concha Y Toro, and the floral 2010 Bougainville from Santa Rita, which is made from Petit Sirah, common in California but rare in Chile. The estates were gorgeous too.


Wonderful Chilean Petite Sirah



Santa Carolina, right in the city of Santiago


The historic cellars at Santa Carolina

On day 2 we hit up Anakena, a modern, organic winery in Cachapoal, making a range of precise, great value wines;  Miguel Torres in Curico, an offshoot of Spain’s Torres wine business, making highly respected wines in all price ranges; and the historic San Pedro – also in Curico – the winery with the largest single vineyard in South America at 1200 ha, and producer of the large volume Gato Negro wines, as well as several premium brands, including Tarapaca. One of the more interesting wines from this day was the refreshing Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado Rosé sparkling wine, made from 100% El Pais grapes, from vineyards ranging from 50 to over 100 years old. I want the ANBL to seek out and list this wine. It is like drinking history. Again, all three estates were impressive.


San Pedro has a huge single vineyard


Organic specialists Anakena in Cachapoal



The tasty rosé bubbly made from Pais at Miguel Torres


Cellar at San Pedro


Traditional Chilean dancers at San Pedro

On the third day we started with an epic tasting at Montes’ premium winery in Colchagua, in the Andes foothills, a modern design using Feng Shui principles, highlighted by a spectacular tasting room overlooking the vineyard slopes. Tasting their icon wines – Folly Syrah, “M” Bordeaux Blend, and Purple Angel Carmenere – was a great experience, but I was also intrigued by their Outer Limits CSM, a beefy Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre blend made from the higher altitude vineyard we could see from the room. We finished the day at Casa Silva, also in Colchagua, enjoying their wonderful polo themed restaurant, great hospitality, political discussions (!), and rustic wines.


The “Big Three” reds at Montes


Magnificent tasting room at Montes

In the morning we headed back to Maipo to visit Odfjell, a new, modern winery owned by a transplanted Norwegian, and operating using biodynamic farming. It is a beautiful estate with quality wines that would look great on our shelves, or in my cellar! The next day was a visit to another biodynamic producer, the renowned Matetic in San Antonio, a cool climate specialist making excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Syrah and one of the best Chardonnays I’ve had in recent memory, their 2011 EQ Chardonnay. I can’t believe this sells for under $30 in Ontario. A special order may be…well…in order. We also made a short stop at the Leyda property owned by San Pedro. They are close to the ocean, in a very cool area, and are hoping to make the best Pinot Noir in Chile. The vines are young, but they are well on their way. The Chardonnay is good as well.


Biodynamic vineyards at Matetic


Biodynamic preparations at Matetic


Terroir of Leyda

My last winery visit was the next day at perhaps the most visually stunning estate, Errazuriz in Aconcagua. Almost desert-like terroir results in big, serious red wines from their estate, but they also bring in grapes from cooler areas to make fresh whites. Their “Max Reserva” line of wines are excellent step-up brands, and their icon wines: Kai Carmenere, La Cumbre Syrah, and Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve Bordeaux Blend are all world beaters, winning blind tastings against much more expensive European and American wines.


Wow – Errazuriz estate

Stay tuned for my next column, where I’ll dig deeper into the intriguing history of Chilean Carmenere and Carignan.

Wines of the Week

Red: Errazuriz Estate Carmenere, $14.99

A basic Carmenere made with ripe grapes and using a fair amount of oak aging to make a smooth, easy drinking, consumer friendly wine.

White: Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, $13.29

Great value Sauvignon Blanc, with wet stone, lemony citrus, and gooseberry notes and a fresh crisp finish.

PART II – Cabernet, Carménère and Carignan: The Three C’s of Chilean Red Wine

When I go on a trip to one of the world’s wine regions, I am lucky that I get to taste hundreds of wines, but there are always highlights, wines that strike a chord and are memorable. On my recent visit to Chile, the red wines that stuck in my mind the most were the three C’s: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, and Carignan.

I won’t dwell too much on Cabernet, since it is very much a known commodity here in New Brunswick. It is the most planted red grape by far in Chile, and makes great value wines. Indeed the best value Cabernet in the world, in my opinion. You can find Reserva Cabernets with fruit and structure for under $20. Or, you can buy super premium Cabernets or Cabernet based blends, like Don Melchor from Concha Y Toro, Medala Real from Santa Rita, “M” from Montes, Almaviva, or Don Maximiano from Errazuriz) that challenge the most expensive wines in the world, for one quarter the price or less.



 Some of the great reds at Concha Y Toro


Impressive vertical of the great Don Melchor

Yes, Chilean Cab is great, but it is Carménère that really intrigues me. This grape is almost forgotten in its Bordeaux homeland, where it had trouble ripening, was prone to coulure (which prevents vines from flowering) and thus was abandoned, but it thrives in Chile. The curious story is that they didn’t even know they had Carménère in Chile until the 1990’s, because it was mixed in with Merlot in many vineyards. This resulted in vegetal tasting wines labelled Merlot, since Carménère is a notorious late ripener.

Since 1998, the grape has received increasing focus both from Chilean wine producers and the world’s wine critics. The early versions released as single varietal wines at the ANBL in the early 2000’s were notoriously “green” tasting, more green pepper than grapes. Currently, growers are planting Carménère where it has time to ripen – such as in the Cachapoal Valley – sometimes picked around three weeks after Cabernet Sauvignon, which we’d normally consider a late ripener. When picked ripe, the wines turn out very nice, with purple colour, savoury spice, delicious dark fruit flavours, and easy tannins. Not only are wineries producing great value Carménère at under $15, they are also making premium versions, with some wineries even making “icon” wines costing close to $100 or more. Examples include the stellar Kai from Errazuriz, Herencia from Santa Carolina, Concha Y Toro’s Terrunyo, Pehuén from Santa Rita, Alwa from Anakena, Montes Purple Angel, and Microterroir Los Lingues from Casa de Siva. There is some question whether these wines are ageworthy, since Carménère left to ripen will drop in acidity, so some wineries add a small amount of more tannic grapes, but I tried some 100% versions on the trip that were aging nicely. Personally, I’d prefer it if wineries made 100% Carménère.




The last “C” grape of interest is Carignan. This southern French variety is not planted in huge amounts in Chile, but the ones I tried on this trip were excellent, deserving more production. The bulk of the Carignan is planted in the hot, dry Maule Valley, where it existed for decades without much interest from quality wine producers, ending up in jug wine blends. It has become trendy though, and many wineries now produce Old Vines, dry farmed, bush trained Carignan. I tried a number of these, and loved them all. They are very dark, with attractive anise and cassis fruit aromas and flavours, with lots of texture, as well as good acidity.

In 2001, Odfjell, a winery very near Santiago, took over a vineyard in Maule with 100 year old Carignan vines that was not being farmed. They now produce an excellent, low yield, premium wine. They are part of VIGNO (Vignadores de Carignan), a newish group of Carignan producers, who self police in terms of the way these vines are farmed and made into wine. We do not currently have any dry farmed Chilean Carignan at ANBL, but Odfjell would be a great place to start.


Biodynamic vineyards at Odfjell

Next time you go red wine shopping, you can’t go wrong with Chile’s Three C’s.

Wines of the Week

Value Red: Concha Y Toro Trio Merlot Carmenere Cabernet Sauvignon $15.99 at ANBL

This is excellent value, with great body, dark plum and savoury flavours. Enjoy on its own or with grilled meats.

Premium Red: 2007 Casa de Silva Microterroir Carménère, $46.79 at ANBL

A terrific example of premium Carménère, with some age. Savoury, peppery, smooth, oaky red with an elegant finish.


Hammond River Is The Latest New Brunswick Craft Brewery

Good Drink, February 7, 2014, The Telegraph Journal

by Craig Pinhey

Atlantic Canada has been hit with a veritable Beer Revolution in the last couple of years, with small microbreweries popping up in towns small and large on a regular basis.  It is difficult to keep up with the barrage of openings in Nova Scotia, and here in New Brunswick we are trying to catch up. Three are opening in the next few months, and there are no doubt more on the cusp.

The first is Hammond River Brewing, a small, “draft only” brewery opening on Stock Farm Road in Quispamsis.   They are kicking off with a launch party on Thursday, February 13 at the Saint John Ale House. Contact the pub for tickets.

Owner and accomplished homebrewer Shane Steeves set up his “nanobrewery” – that’s the name coined for very small brewing operations – in the basement of his home, something that is becoming increasingly common in North America. It makes sense. Beer is food, and is best sourced locally and served fresh. Every town in New Brunswick could and should support a small local brewery.

Hammond River brews 30 gallon batches (in a 40 gallon kettle), and expects an annual production of approximately 10,000 litres, or just under 200 litres a week. That’s about 47 cases of 12 standard bottles of beer a week, except you can’t buy his beer in bottles; for now it will only be available on tap at pubs. You cannot buy beer at his brewery in Growlers, either, so don’t try!

“To start,” says Steeves, “I’ll have two taps at Saint John Ale House, two taps at Bourbon Quarter, and one tap each at The Barrels Head and Shiretown.” He is considering selling to other cities, but is smartly staying local for start-up.

Before opening his own brewery, Steeves had been homebrewing regularly, and also making occasional batches of his “West Coast” style Hammond River Pale Ale at  Big Tide brew pub in Saint John. At his own brewery, though, his flagship beer will be his Hop Flash IPA.  This will be sold at a premium to pubs, compared to his other beers, because of the high cost for hops.  For a 30 gallon batch he uses a total of around 1.5 kg of hops – so that’s roughly 4-5 grams per serving, exponentially more than a typical Canadian pale ale –  of five different varieties, most giving citrus (grapefruit) and piney/floral/herbal characteristics typical of West Coast style beers.


The nearly 2 pounds of hops used in just the finishing addition for Hop Flash IPA

“The hops used in my IPA are Magnum, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade, and Chinook,” explains Steeves. “The majority of my hops are added in the latter part of the boil to give big hop flavours and aromas, as well as some staying power for hop freshness.”

Hop Flash checks in at 6.6% alcohol and 66 IBUs. IBU is short for International Bitterness Units. To put this in perspective, mainstream Canadian beers are typically around 10 IBUs,  whereas English style bitters and Premium lagers are generally around 20-40 IBUs.

His other starting brews include: Red Coat India Red Ale, Covered Bridge ESB, and Back In Black Oatmeal Stout. Look for them soon at the aforementioned pubs.  You can follow Hammond River Brewing on Facebook.

The two other breweries opening soon are Big Axe in Nackawic and Brasseurs du Petit-Sault in Edmundston.

The owner/brewer at Big Axe is Peter Cole, and he plans to release a stout, IPA and a cream ale from his 40 gallon brew system, starting in mid-March on draft, and via Growlers at the brewery in May. They are only two minutes from the Trans Canada Highway, and also have a B&B. “Ideally,” says Cole, “people will stay here and be able to try our craft beer!  Our location is waterfront on the Saint John River and we have 53 acres of land with our trails joining the provincial snowmobile/ATV trails.”  Sounds like a great getaway to me!  Check out for more information.

Brasseurs du Petit-Sault is a larger microbrewery, 15 bbl (over 10 times the size of Hammond River or Big Axe), and is located in the old police station, which has undergone major renovations. “The company is privately-owned,” says  spokesperson Mychèle Poitras, “but with the added twist of having over 60 investors, which makes it somewhat of a community project.”

They will specialize in Belgian style beers, and, to that end, have a working relationship with Belgium’s Brunehaut Brewery, makers of St. Martin Abbey ale and other classic Belgian styles.  Brasseurs du Petit-Sault recently hired two experienced brewers and are making test batches at the pilot brewing system at NBCC Grand Falls.
Their equipment arrives in March, and they anticipate a June opening.

Their initial beers, developed by Brunehaut, will be a blonde ale and a Belgian wit (white).  They plan “more complex” beers in the future. You can learn more at

Craft beer is really happening in New Brunswick. It is a revolution you should get behind.


Wine of the Week

Jost L’Acadie Pinot Grigio,  $16.99 – this is a fresh and fruity off-dry white made from mostly Nova Scotia Acadie Blanc, with some Ontario Pinot Grigio. I have no problem with wines that are blends of grapes from various regions or countries, as long as it is clearly stated on the label, as with this wine.  It has tasty fresh fruit flavours of pear and citrus, with light white flower notes. Enjoy with spicy Asian cuisine.


February 13th and 15th – Picaroons Beer and ChocolateTastings in Fredericton. Try a selection of Picaroons brews with various chocolates. The Feb 13th event is at the York Street Station ANBL, and I will lead the tasting on the 15th at The Schnitzel Parlour.  $50 for 4 courses.  For tickets go to Picaroons Brewtique at 422 Queen Street in Fredericton.

Tuesday, February 18th – Big Reds at happinez wine bar. Join me for a tasting of some power reds. Go to for more information.

Saturday, February 22nd – Red Cross WIne Fair. This wonderful fundraiser always sell out and this year is no exception. There are a few VIP tickets left. For $40 more you get a 1 hour premium wine tasting before the main event. See you there! VIP tickets can be purchased

Saturday, March 8 – Fredericton Craft Beer Festival. This successful event returns to our capital this spring and is a can’t miss for beer lovers. More information can be found at


Craig Pinhey is a certified Sommelier, beer judge and writer. Visit him or follow him on Twitter as frogspadca.


Drink’N’Music 2013 – Craig’s Top 10 Albums of 2013 Paired With Drinks

Drink’N’Music 2013

10 of Craig’s Favourite Records of 2013, Paired with 10 Favourite Tipples

Craig Pinhey

It is the end of the year, and time for my annual Drink’n’Music list, in which I pair my top 10 listens from 2013 with an appropriate beverage. I am not saying these are the best 10 records released this year, just my favourites from the ones I have played and purchased.

Go to for previous years.

Here are my top 10 albums of 2013, with recommended drinks.


 1. Elvis Costello & The Roots –  Wise Up Ghost

Watch: Walk Us Uptown

This is not Elvis Costello playing funk, nor is it The Roots punking out. It is a musical partnership that has resulted in some of Costello’s best lyrics – political and otherwise – produced in a different way, with snappy beats and in some cases funky bass, keys, lead guitar and a horn section…all behind Costello’s unmistakable voice.  My favourite track, and my Song of the Year, is The Puppet Has Cut His Strings, a bonus song on the Deluxe version, a moving ballad Costello penned about his father’s recent passing from Alzheimer’s.  Just try to listen to it without breaking down.

You may like this LP if you like:  Musicians who are not afraid to take risks.

What to Drink: An American/UK hybrid, so how about a Manhattan, but made with Connemara Peated Single Malt from Ireland, $51.59, in honour of Declan Macmanus’s heritage.

2. Bettie Serveert – Oh Mayhem

Check out this amazing video!

This Dutch combo, fronted by a Canadian vocalist and song writer, is in my opinion one of the best rock and roll bands of the past two decades. The lyrics are excellent, as are her vocals, but Oh Mayhem – released in late 2012 but available here in 2013 – is really a guitar lover’s album. It rocks!

You may like this LP if you like: The Pretenders, Juliana Hatfield, Metric, Hendrix solos.

What to Drink: Grolsch, a crisp, refreshing Dutch lager in a swingtop bottle. $3.18/450 ml.

3. Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob

Yes, I know, Canada’s indie twin darlings sold out and made a highly produced synth pop dance record, but, you know what? The lyrics are good, the tunes are memorable and catchy, and this is more original and better than the dance music that tops the US charts.  I don’t want all their records to sound like this, but this has found its way into my car’s CD player an awful lot this year.

You may like this LP if you like: dance music with both brains and a heart

What to Drink:  Something fun and bubbly but not too sweet: Segura Viudas Brut Rosé, Spain $16.99

4. Madness – Oui Oui Si SI Ja Ja Da Da

Check out this album preview

Most would say that this British pop and ska band peaked in the late 70‘s and early 80‘s, but this new album was a breath of fresh air in 2013, and as good as any of their early work.  I’m not sure there was a better 2013 LP for hot summer days.

You may like this LP if you like:  old school ska music and happy British pop,  like if the Kinks meshed with Rancid.

What to Drink: a pint of UK-style bitter. My usual choice is Picaroons Best Bitter ($3.80/500 ml)

5. David Myles– In The Nighttime

New Brunswick’s Myles is now a Canadian star, and this latest record shows his maturity as a vocalist and songwriter. These songs have a lot of soul, and he sings them convincingly. The bonus mini-CD produced by Classified is particularly groovy. I love it!

You may like this LP if you like:  Marvin Gaye, nice tall guys.

What to Drink:  I’d love to recommend a wine from Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Vineyards, as Myles’s brother’s wife is the winemaker, but we don’t have any at ANBL. Jost, owners of Gaspereau, does have a smooth red called Jost Trilogy, though, for $19.99.

6. Wesley Stace – S/T

Listen to Wesley sing When I Knew

Wesley Stace used to go by John Wesley Harding but has reverted to his own name for this self-titled record. His career as a literary novelist (read the brilliant By George if you haven’t already) has perhaps been more successful than his music career, but this new record is essentially a guidebook on the songwriting craft. The Bedroom You Grew Up In, When I Knew, and Wrong For The Part are just perfect little songs.

You may like this LP if you like:  imagine Bob Dylan with a beautiful singing voice and British accent

What to Drink:  Since Stace now makes New York his home, I picked something quintessentially American: Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey, $36.99, on ice or in an Old Fashioned

7.Prefab Sprout – Crimson/Red

The video for Best Jewel Thief in the World

Iconoclast Paddy McAloon has come back in 2013 with a wonderful album of gorgeous, thoughtful pop songs. It was too long a wait for this new record.

You may like this LP if you like:  Pet Sounds, Steely Dan, Thomas Dolby

What to Drink:  a glass of pretty, aromatic white, wine, with some zip, such as Willm Reserve Riesling from Alsace, France,  $18.99

8. Miles Kane – Don’t Forget Who You Are

Listen to this great track 

A great British rock and roll record with songs co-written with legends like Paul Weller (the Jam) and Andy Partridge (XTC).

You may like this LP if you like:  Supergrass, the more rocking Stones/Kinks/Who/Beatles songs, and the best of Oasis

What to Drink: what is more British than Gin & Tonic? But use local gin Thuya, $29.99.

9. Heavy Blinkers – Health

Like their FB site

A very diverse record, long in the making, but satisfying. Lots of guest vocals, but still unmistakably The Heavy Blinkers, with the lush orchestration we know and love.

You may like this LP if you like:  Pet Sounds, Halifax indie music, Jenn Grant

What to Drink:  This is summer music, and I’m quite partial to a cold lager beer in the summer. This is tasty: Gahan Beach Chair Lager, PEI<  473 ml can/$3.29

10. Lloyd Cole – Standards

Check out Lloyd’s site

This Lloyd album could have come from the early 80’s, and that’s a good thing, as he was one of the best, and most original, singer songwriters to emerge from that age of excess.

You may like this LP if you like:  Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, alt-folk.

What to Drink:  A complex red wine, like a Spanish Rioja. Try this good value:  Antano Crianza $14.99.

Honourable mentions:  Tarmac Adam – The History Effect,Robbie Fulks – Gone Away Backwards, OMD – English Electric , Billy Bragg – Tooth and Nail, TMBG – Nanobots, Paul Mccartney – NEW.

Cheers and have a Merry Musical Holiday!

Craig Pinhey is a certified Sommelier and writer who loves good drink and music. Visit him or follow him on Twitter as frogspadca.

Drink’N’Music 2012 – Craig’s Top 10 Albums of 2012 Matched With Drinks

Drink’N’Music 2012
10 of Craig’s Favourite Records of 2012, Paired with 10 Favourite Tipples
Craig Pinhey

Do you ever think about what music to play when you are enjoying a favourite drink? I do. I’ve been told that some of my music preferences are strange, which I take as a compliment. If we all liked the same music, TV shows, and drinks, life would be really boring.

I love music even more that booze, believe it or not, and every year for as long as I can remember I’ve made a top 10 list. Starting in 2006 I decided to pair each of my picks with a drink – go to for previous years.

Here are my top 10 albums of 2012, with recommended drinks.

1. Field Music – Plumb (England, Prog/Pop)

I was turned onto Field Music by other fans of UK pop gods XTC. They have some similarities to XTC but are more of a prog/pop band. The band is mainly the two brothers, David and Peter Brewis, who together make complex yet melodic pop songs, with fantastic musicianship. This record was a finalist for Britain’s Mercury Prize this year.

Track to taste online: (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing

What to Drink: Something complex, refreshing and British, so how about a Gin and Tonic, using Plymouth Original London Dry Gin $28.99.

2. John K Samson – Provincial (Canada, Rock/Pop)

Weakerthans frontman Samson released his solo record to great acclaim for good reason. If you are a fan of Winnipeg’s The Weakerthans, you will find this record easy to love, as it pretty much sounds like their next great album. It is smart, catchy, and eminently Canadian. His lyrics stand alone perfectly as poems.

Track to taste online: When I Write My Master’s Thesis

What to Drink: We don’t get any Manitoba products, so I’ve chosen an excellent western whisky. Dark Horse ($29.99) is the latest offering from Alberta Premium, who are well known for making Canadian whisky from 100% Rye, giving it a spicy, full flavour. This has more oak influence, giving Bourbon-like notes.

3. Aimee Mann – Charmer (USA, Rock/Pop)

Many know Aimee Mann for Voices Carry from her early band Til Tuesday, or for her fabulous soundtrack to Magnolia, but she has continued making very good records since then, and her latest is one of her best. Her unique voice and attractive lyrical phrasing work really well with her fresh pop melodies. No fluff here; just great songs.

Track to taste online: Charmer (it has a hilarious video)

What to Drink: Something smooth but also fresh, so how about the Gustav Lorenz Reserve Sylvaner ($16.79), one of my favourite white wines at the ANBL.

4. John Southworth – Easterween/West Coast Persona/Failed Jingles for Bank of America and Other US Corporations (Canada, Orchestral/Lounge/Pop)

Southworth was busy in 2012. He performed (& released) Easterween, his Brecht/Weill styled musical theatre production with Toronto’s Andrew Downing, then released West Coast Persona, an EP of some of his earlier, lounge-pop songs, then finally Failed Jingles…, a collection of very short, gorgeous pop tunes that were actually written as jingles, but were rejected by the intended corporations. Songs must constantly exude from his pores. Rumour has it he is playing a show at The Barrel’s Head in Rothesay on December 17. See you there!

Track to taste online: Best Foog John, from Failed Jingles…

What to Drink: Absinthe, with cold water added until it turns cloudy (approximately 5 parts water to 1 part Absinthe). Be sure to use New Brunswick’s own Courailleuse, made by Distillerie Fils du Roy ($62.99).

5. Mike O’Neil – Wild Lines (Canada, Rock/Pop)

Halifax’s O’Neil became famous as part of The Inbreds, but his new solo record is a much more mature and satisfying record, all the way through. It is part that Halifax rock sound that will appeal to fans of Sloan and the Superfriendz, but with even stronger Lennon/McCartney influences.

Track to taste online: Henry

What to Drink: Garrison Hop Yard ($12.98/6), a very refreshing hoppy session ale brewed in Halifax.

6. Adam Mowery – St . Joseph’s Mechanical Penthouse (Canada, Pop/Indie)

Though now in Halifax, Mowery is a key component of the Saint John music scene. Mowery’s unique voice and pop sensibility shows through in this short, satisfying record. Hook laden pop tunes with a noisy punk influence.

Track to taste online: Soft Features

What to Drink: Big Tide Seaworthy IPA, brewed in Saint John, available by the Growler or on tap at Big Tide.

7. Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur (Canada, Folk/Rock/Pop)

One of Canada’s best female singer songwriters, Edwards has changed gears and grown in scope with the help of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) as a co-producer/collaborator. Much more than country influenced folk, this is a wonderfully varied record, with great lyrics and production.

Track to taste online: Change The Sheets

What to Drink: This enigmatic singer songwriter was born in Ottawa, so I’m drinking one of my favourite enigmatic Ontario wines, Henry of Pelham Baco Noir, $16.99, an oaky, juicy and spicy red.

8. Graham Parker & The Rumour – Three Chords Good

One of my favourite British singer songwriters, now living in the Eastern US, Parker has reunited with his legendary pub rock band for their first LP in over 30 years. It sounds like it was made in the mid to late 70’s, which in this case is a good thing. Also look for Parker in the new Judd Apatow film “This is 40.”

Track to taste online: Long Emotional Ride

What to Drink: this good honest rock and roll deserves a good honest English ale, like Duchy’s Organic Old Ruby Ale $3.99.

9. Joe Jackson – Duke

Joe Jackson is a very diverse artist, excelling at everything from punky pop to jazz. This is his tribute to Duke Ellington, featuring all covers, with lots of guest musicians including Sharon Jones (The Dap Kings), Questlove (The Roots) Iggy Pop, and Steve Vai.

Track to taste online: It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) – duet with Iggy Pop

What to Drink: This is cocktail music, and one of my favourites is the Manhattan, which certainly was one of Jackson’s favourite places until the smoking ban. Make your Manhattan with Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky from Ontario, $24.99, or their “amped-up” version, Copper Pot, $29.99.

10. Ben Folds Five – The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Ben Folds reunited with his band to make another rocking pop record of piano-bass-drums. As always, the songs and lyrics are strong, but it is the skill of the musicians – especially how they play off of each other – that really makes this band special. It rewards frequent listening.

Track to taste online: Do It Anyway – the Fraggle Rock video is worth watching even if you don’t care for the band.

What to Drink: This energetic band needs a wine with zippy acidity Ben is American, so how about the refreshing Firesteed Riesling from Oregon, $19.99.

Cheers and have a Merry Musical Holiday!

Craig Pinhey is a certified Sommelier and writer who loves good drink and music. Visit him or follow him on Twitter as frogspadca.

Lessons from the Red Wine Tasting of a Lifetime

Lessons from the Red Wine Tasting of a Lifetime

by Craig Pinhey

Good Drink, New Brunswick Telegraph Journal,  November 15, 2013

One of the best parts of taking the Sommelier course back in 1999-2000 in Halifax, then teaching it later on here in New Brunswick, was the opportunity to taste the iconic wines of the world: Grand Cru Burgundies, Classed Growth Bordeaux, top Barolos, Prestige Champagne, Super Tuscans, and other wines I would generally never get to drink because they were far out of my price range. Tasting them with others who were learning about fine wine was an excellent way to experience these premium wines for the first time. To be truthful, in 1999 I didn’t really know what I was tasting, as I was a relative newbie.

Looking back now, I have had the benefit of over a dozen years tasting and writing, traveling the wine world, judging, and doing events, and I have tasted many of these wines several times, sometimes at the actual wineries, and I feel confident that I know where they sit in the wine world. I can separate their reputation from their actual quality, and give some perspective on their price and status.

This was put to the test a few weeks ago when I had the honour of being invited to be one of only a handful of Canadians to participate in the Master Blending Classification in Montreal, where we blind tasted 30 of the top Cabernet Sauvignon blends in the world, all from the 2009 vintage. This annual event is organized by Wolf Blass, with the intent to show where their top red – their Black Label Cabernet Shiraz – sits in the upper echelons of the world’s best Cabs.



And these WERE the best, at least the ones generally considered to be so, based on magazines and the price tags. Many top Bordeaux were there, including all five First Growths; these are the top Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy blends of the Left Bank of Bordeaux, that were ranked in the famous 1855 classification. Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, Haut Brion, Margaux and Latour are collectively the Rolls Royce of wine. The 2009’s we tasted sell on the world market right now for well over $1000 a bottle; for example a case of 12 bottles of 2009 Lafite goes for over $18,000, according to Decanter magazine.

Other iconic reds at the tasting were Italy’s top Super Tuscans: Sassicaia, Solaia, and Ornellaia. Top Napa efforts were there too, including Opus One, Dominus, Joseph Phelps Insignia, Harlan Proprietary, and Ridge Monte Bello. Similarly, the best of South Africa, Chile, and Australia were representing their countries.



This was, indeed, the tasting of a lifetime for me, as least thus far in my wine life, and the immense task was not lost on me. I treated it as a major lesson, and also a great opportunity to contribute to a very interesting comparative exercise, while tasting some of the most amazing beverages the world can produce. We wine geeks love this stuff.





I learned several things at this tasting. Here are the most interesting:

1. Not everyone prefers First Growths

I guess I have expensive tastes, since 3 of my top 6 scoring wines were First Growths, but I noticed that many judges didn’t score some of them very high. We see the scores, but not who gave them, so unless each taster tells the others their scores, we don’t find out who liked what. I scored them 93, 93, 92, 90 and 89, but I noticed some scores in the low 80’s and even in the 70’s. I know judges can be calibrated differently, but can you imagine a professional scoring a wine that cost over $1000 under 80/100? I doubt they will ever admit to it in print.

2. The top wine was not the most expensive wine

My highest scoring wine was Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, a so-called “Super Second” growth, which typically sells for under $300 (what a deal!) whereas the top wine overall, on average, was another Bordeaux, Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, another Super Second that I gave 91, available for $480 at Quebec’s SAQ. Clearly I prefer premium Bordeaux to top New World Cabernet, as I scored 11 wines 91 or above, 7 of which were Bordeaux.

3. Many icon wines are vastly overpriced

Yes, the wines on average scored very high, but note that we knew that all the wines were $100+ on the market. I can’t speak for other judges, but I expected all the wines to score over 90, and, when I was disappointed by a wine, I found it difficult to go below 90. That said, I had to, because that reflected how much I preferred other wines. Overall, my scores ranged from 88-94. Now, some of these wines sell for around $100, some are several hundred, and a few go up into the stratosphere, but – I’ll be frank – none of them justify a price tag over $150. Yes, they may do better, slightly, in a blind tasting when compared to the best Cabernets in the $25-50 range, but are they THAT much better? In my opinion, no. This actually makes the Wolf Blass Black Label look relatively good value, as it costs just under $100 at the ANBL, and scored an average of 90 at the event, which was also my score. I also scored Chile’s Vina Almaviva 93, and it sells for under $150 in Quebec. The truth is that demand, particularly from Asia, has pushed the price of the most famous wines to stupid price levels. I promise you – they are not worth it.

This tasting was exciting, very informative, and I’d love to do it again, but I may never, so that may have been the tasting of my lifetime. Sadly, I had to spit, but don’t worry, I did drink a little bit of all my top scorers after they revealed the wines – I’m not an idiot!

For more information on the Master Blend Classification, go to


Old World Summer Whites

This is the unedited version of my column which appeared in theTelegraph Journal on June 28, 2013


by Craig Pinhey

I know Canada Day is coming soon, and I always urge Canadians to drink local, but my column this week doesn’t focus on Canadian wine. My previous column did – email me if you missed it.

When I go shopping at my friendly neighbourhood ANBL store, I’m not only looking for wines to write about; I’m buying wine to drink. And, often, when I look at my cart at the end of shopping during these warmer months, it is mostly filled with Old World white wine. If any of you don’t know what I mean by Old World, I’m talking about wines from the European countries that have been making wine for centuries, or even millennia.

Mainly I mean France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany, but Old World also encompasses the rest of Europe, and even parts of Asia and Africa. I do buy more than my fair share of Canadian wines too, as they tend to be closer in style to European wine than they are to most New World Regions. I would buy more if we could get a wider selection here.

This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the wines of the New World, but more an indication of my personal preferences for a certain style of wine. Other than the clearly off-dry wines like most of the German Rieslings we see here in New Brunswick, wines from the Old World are perceived as drier in style than their New World counterparts. There is also a textural component that I love, a smooth but not sweet mid-palate, and this generally points me in the direction of Europe. More winemakers there tend to make wine in a way that accentuates texture over fruitiness, and I don’t mean body from alcohol or sugar, although these components can certainly provide fullness. The alcohol tends to be lower, actually, which is appropriate for summer. I’m talking about a natural richness from the grapes themselves, as well as oxidative rather than reductive winemaking, in some cases. Making wine in old barrels gives richness without any oak or vanilla flavours.

Fruity doesn’t mean sweet, of course, and you can’t smell sugar. That’s an essential lesson for new wine students. But a touch of sweetness does push up the perceived fruitiness of wine on the palate, which is why many inexpensive wines these days – white and red – are made with an added dose of sugar. It can also take the edge off of a dry wine that has firm acidity and bitter tannins.

But I prefer wines with an edge.

Besides the 400+ Canadian wines I judged at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada last week, I also tasted through a dozen Old World whites since my last column. Here are my three ‘edgy’ favourites from the tasting. You’ll note they all have a moderate alcohol level of 12.5%.

2012 Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio, IGT Dolomiti, Italy, 12.5% alc, $14.99
This old favourite has changed from a DOC Trentino to an IGT Dolomiti wine recently, but is still estate grown Pinot Grigio, made in the crisp, fresh, dry Northern Italian style. So much of the Pinot Grigio on the market today is too sweet and simple, but not Mezzacorona.

2011 Viura, Finca Antigua, La Mancha, Spain, 12.5% alc, $14.79
Viura is hardly a household name, but it can make really solid wine. This is a dry white with fruity pear notes, good body and balanced acidity. It is a good value, everyday, versatile white.

Wine of the Week: 2011 Periquita White, VR Peninsula de Setubal, Portugal, 12.5% alc, $12.79
This is terrific value for a really good, fresh, crisp, fruity white that also has good body and a clean, smooth, finish. A blend of Moscatel (Muscat), Verdelho, and Viognier, with a bit of Viosinho. A “chill and thrill” wine.


Upcoming events:
Saturday, July 13th: Picaroons’ Brewer’s Bash, Fredericton,
Saturday, July 20th, Uncorked River Cruise: Beer Tasting, Saint John,
Monday, July 29th, Summer Wine Tasting at happinez wine bar, Saint John,


Craig Pinhey is a Sommelier and writer. “Like” his Facebook site at or follow him on Twitter as @frogspadca


New Brunswick’s Increasingly Exciting Wine and Food Scene

NOTE: The edited version of this column  was published in the Telegraph Journal on June 14th
The past few weeks have been very busy for me, and that is mostly due to the local wine and food scene.  When I moved here in late 1998 there was no commercial local wine made from New Brunswick grapes; now we have several wineries making good wine from grapes, and more are on the way soon.
In addition, there wasn’t much of a restaurant scene 15 years ago. That sure has changed.  We now have dozens of very good restaurants around the province, and several that I would proudly put up against pretty much any place in Canada. I went to one of those – Deja Bu in Caraquet – for a dinner and lunch two weeks ago as part of Festivin. More on that later.
A month ago I was in Windsor, Ontario judging the All Canadian Wine Championships (ACWC), Canada’s oldest national wine competition. Next week I’ll be in Niagara judging the newest one: the National Wine Awards of Canada, via Wine Align, which essentially replaces the Canadian Wine Awards. And, as soon as I get back, I have to zoom to Halifax to judge the Atlantic Canada Wine Awards. New Brunswick wines factor into all of these competitions.
The results are out from the 2013 ACWC’s, and once again New Brunswick wineries brought home some hardware. You can see all the results here:
The biggest winner from New Brunswick was Gillis of Belleisle winery, located in Springfield, about 13 km from Norton. Gillis’s wines have been made the past few years by Brock University (Ontario) trained winemaker Hyun Suk Lee, who is more commonly known as Leeko. Originally from Seoul, Korea, Leeko has made major strides at Gillis, producing good wines from estate grapes and other fruit, including apples, as well as purchased fruit from other areas, including red and white grapes from former winery owner Paul Boudreau’s vineyard in Memramcook.
Gillis won Silver medals for their 2012 Honey Rosé – grape wine with honey added, and Apple Crisp – apple wine flavoured with cinnamon sticks, and a huge Double Gold for their 2011 Premium Red, a blend of 80% Foch from Memramcook and 20% Marquette grapes from the same site, but dried using the method made famous for Amarone wines in Veneto, Italy. They have 100 cases of it and it is priced at $24.75. The Apple Crisp will be released soon, but the Rosé is available now for $13.75.  They aso have some of their Silver Medal winning Premium Red from 2010, as well as their Cranberry Ceilidh, which won Gold last year in the off dry fruit wine category. It retails for $15.
These wines should be available at your local ANBL, but for now you can purchase them at their very nice little winery, or at the Kingston, Saint John, and Sussex farmer’s markets.
Other NB winners included Winegarden Estates with a big Double Gold for their 2012 Maple Dessert Wine and a Silver for their Rubina Blueberry wine, Bronze for Happy Knight for their Black Currant wine, and Silver for their 2012 Crème de Cassis, and Verger Belliveau Orchard, who snagged a bronze for their 2012 Beausejour.
Now, back to Caraquet. Two weeks ago I spent a couple of days at the annual Festivin in Caraquet, which is a can’t miss event for me.  This is one of the premiere wine and food events in Atlantic Canada, and their Gala Dinner, this year held on Thursday, May 30, is the crème de la crème. This very special event was held this year at Sommelier Robert Noel’s déjà BU! bar à vin et resto, a groundbreaking restaurant by the shore in Caraquet.  This year’s special guest was Sommelier Véronique Rivest, Best Sommelier in Canada for 2012, who recently returned from placing 1st in the Americas in Brazil and 2nd in the world in Tokyo. Rivest talked us through the wines she chose to pair with a multi-course meal that included oysters two ways, a seafood platter featuring house smoked scallop, lobster tempura and sea urchin rice, pork cheeks, kobe beef,  tenderloin on the bone with umami sauce, and a spectacular dessert. Perhaps it is needless to say that there were many fine wines served. The entire evening was a massive success.
Robert Noel and his team in the kitchen at déjà BU!
The next day, at a tasty burger lunch at déjà BU!  Rivest gave a demonstration on how to do a blind tasting of wine when put on the spot, which Is something I’ve done myself before, but never under the pressure of a major Sommelier competition. She did very well, practically nailing all four wines. Attendees were impressed.
Sommelier Véronique Rivest speaks from the kitchen at déjà BU!
That Friday night I attended the Festivin Grand Tasting, a typical wine show except that it has a super fun Caves a Vin that continues after the show closes. If you have never attended Festivin, put it on your schedule for next year. It helps if you are bilingual, but you’lll have a terrific time in any case.
My work wasn’t done, though, as that Saturday morning I returned to help present Portuguese and Spanish wines at Rothesay’s The Shadow Lawn Inn’s Iberian wine and food dinner, which was very well received. I look forward to future events there, as the kitchen is one of the best on the province.
This busy wine and food schedule is a great indicator of where New Brunswick is heading, food and wine-wise. People have shown that they will support these types of events, and are ready, perhaps, for even bigger and better things. I know I am.

Wine of the Week:
2011 Gillis of Belleisle Premium Red, Springfield, New Brunswick, $24.75

A soft, round red with pleasant dark plum and spicy blackberry notes. Enjoy it on its own or with game meats or beef and lamb with an intense reduction. Go to for more information.

Picaroons’ Brewer’s Bash
On Saturday July 13th Fredericton will play host to a new sort of beer festival, with many Canadian breweries not currently sold here in New Brunswick. At last count, in addition to our local breweries there will be 8 from BC, 6 from Alberta, 2 from Saskatchewan, 2 from Manitoba, 14 from Ontario, 10 from Quebec, 8 from Nova Scotia, and 1 from each of PEI, Newfoundland and the Yukon! There will be live music, too, including one my favourite bands, The Skydiggers. Check for more information.
Wine and Beer Tours
A local entrepreneur has started Uncorked Wine Tours, a Saint John area business that conducts local wine and beer tastings and tours. Great idea! Check them out at They are running a River Cruise/New Brunswick craft beer tasting on July 20, 2013. Ahoy!
Wine Tastings
Keep watching my Facebook site for information about future tastings at happinez wine bar and classes via UNBSJ.


Craig Pinhey is a Sommelier and writer.  “Like” his Facebook site at or follow him on Twitter as @frogspadca

London Calling, May 2013

London Calling

by Craig Pinhey

(unedited version of my column published May 17 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal)

Yesterday and today, at Canada House in Trafalgar Square, London, England, some of the world’s most influential wine critics and Sommeliers are experiencing some of Canada’s best wines, from BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia, in an event entitled “REDISCOVER Canadian Wines.” The media and trade tasting event is a result of a partnership between Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the Canadian High Commission in London, England.

This is exciting news for Canadian wine. You might argue that we as an industry should first open borders between our own provinces for wine, beer and spirits sales before we worry too much about exporting our best wines to Europe, the USA, or elsewhere, but there is a bigger picture to consider.

The acceptance of our wines – our best wines, yes, but also our everyday wines – is important to our producers. It gives confidence, and encourages investment in further grape planting. Canada is a premium wine producer, and there seem to be more expensive wines on the market every year, yet we Canadians are not making more money, so it may be that export of these will become very important. Canadians can only afford so many over $20 wines. Also, it is good to put out feelers now and create excitement. 2010’s similar Seriously Cool Chardonnay event received great response from the international media in London, and this week’s event should do the same.

Someday, and it is possibly not that far off, Canadian consumers will truly take to our own wines to the extent that people do in other wine countries for their wines, and when this happens we will certainly drink every drop that we can produce, but at the moment export is attractive. This certainly applies to wines like Benjamin Bridge Brut, from Nova Scotia, super premium bubbly that is already competing with top Champagne in terms of taste, but they will need to do this in world markets too, as their production gradually ramps up. It seems counterintuitive, but it may make more sense to sell it to Europeans and Asians instead of provinces west.

The wines for this week’s tasting were selected by a small group of wine journalists several weeks ago. I had the pleasure of representing Atlantic Canada. The Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University in Ontario hosted the tasting. We blind tasted over 250 submitted wines, narrowing them down to 89 wines. In addition we nominated sparkling wines for submission, so there will be 20 bubblies at the London event, including from three Nova Scotia producers: Benjamin Bridge, Blomidon Estates, and L’Acadie Vineyards. I’m sure they agree that it is a true honour representing our country.

Grape varieties to be showcased as table wines include Pinot Noir, Bordeaux blends or varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot), Syrah, Gamay Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.

Although few of these top wines ever make it to the ANBL, we do have wines from several of the producers who are represented in London. For this week I have selected two Wines of the Week, one somewhat premium and another that is under $20.

Wines of the Week
2011 Malivoire Gamay Noir, Ontario $24.99
Malivoire is represented at the London tasting with a Gamay and a single vineyard Chardonnay. We recently received a very small lot of 4 cases at the ABL, and they are all at the Dieppe store. The Gamay is completely unlike the Beaujolais wines people are used to in New Brunswick. It does have the berry fruit, and it is fairly light in body and colour, but it very dry and has good structure from acidity. It is great with charcuterie and cheese.

Pelee Island Reserve Pinot Noir, Ontario, $17.29
Pelee Island has several of their premium wines at the Canada House event. Here at the ANBL we have a fair number of their value offerings, but my favourite is their Reserve Pinot Noir. This is heavier than the average Ontario Pinot Noir, with more oak presence, but it still has the expected cherry notes from Pinot, and decent acidity. Drink with roast chicken or grilled lamb.

Other news and events:
2013 Canadian Brewing Awards
The 2013 Canadian Brewing Awards gala last week announced several medals for our New Brunswick breweries, including four for Moosehead, three for Pump House and 1 for Acadie Broue. Congratulations, all! They also announced the terrific news that next year’s Gala Awards Dinner will be held in Fredericton. Find out more at

May 24 – June 1: FestiVin De Cariquet
This annual festival is filled with exciting food and wine pairing and wine tasting events. You can find all the relevant information at Follow along as I report from FestiVin on my Twitter feed @frogspadca and post photos at The special guest this year is the Top Sommelier of the Americas and 2nd best in the world for 2013, Canada’s own Veronique Rivest!

June 1: Spain and Portugal Wine Dinner
Join me at The Shadow Lawn Inn in Rothesay for this special wine and food pairing. The details are up here:


Craig Pinhey is a Sommelier and writer. “Like” his Facebook site at or follow him on Twitter as @frogspadca