Rising Tide – 2012 Atlantic Canada Wine Symposium

A slightly modified version of my column from the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal for May 4, 2012

Ride the Rising Tide of Atlantic Wine

If you are interested in Canadian wine, and want to be on top of what
is going on in the North American wine industry, including Atlantic
Canadian wine, then you should attend Rising Tide, the 2012 Atlantic
Canada Wine Symposium May 27-29 in Halifax. This symposium is held
every three years, but the 2012 version is special, in that it is
larger than ever, and features by far the most impressive array of
industry experts ever to gather in the region.

The Rising Tide theme is based on the idea that if the leaders in the
industry practice continuous improvement and keep growing better
grapes and making higher quality wine, while also helping out new
growers and wineries by sharing best practices, then this will help
raise the reputation of the entire industry, and increase tourism and
employment in the Atlantic region.

Be assured, though, that this conference is not just for people who
grow grapes and/or make wine; many of the presentations at the
conference are aimed at wine lovers – professional or hobbyists –  who
want to learn more about wine, those who work in restaurants that sell
Canadian wine, or work on the business side: selling wine either for a
liquor board, a private store or for wineries themselves. There is a
marketing and business component to the conference, including sessions
on social media and media relations.

There will be opportunities to network with folks in the industry, try
wines from all around the region, and, if you just want to eat well
and drink great local wine, you can attend the Gala Dinner on the
evening of Monday the 28th, at the Westin Nova Scotia. This will
showcase Atlantic Canada’s finest locally produced products and the
cuisine of renowned Chef Raj Gupta, all paired up with Atlantic wines.

On the other hand, if you simply want an educational, guided visit to
some of Nova Scotia’s best wineries, there is a tour going out on
Sunday May 27 from 10 am to 4 pm.

You can see all the events, speakers and session topics listed at
www.atlanticwinesymposium.ca.  Many sessions are concurrent, and
several are repeated at different times so that you can have a chance
to catch them.

There is something for everyone, and of course the technical sessions
and supplier marketplace for grape growers and winemakers are
essential for anyone who works in those fields locally, but the most
exciting for a wine lover like me are those featuring key people from
other regions, including but not limited to:
– Sandra Oldfield, Winemaker, Owner, Tinhorn Creek Winery, BC
– Ezra Cipes, Founder, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, BC
– Frank Deiter, Master Distiller, Okanagan Spirits, BC
– Morgen McLaughlin, President and CEO, Finger Lakes Wine Region, New York, USA
– Matthew Speck, Vice President, Viticulture, Henry of Pelham, Ontario
– Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble, Wine Industry Consultants (involved
in several winery projects in BC, Ontario and Argentina)
– Bill Redelmeier, Owner, Southbrook Vineyards, Ontario
– Mark Chien, Professor, Penn State Wine Grape Extension Education,
Pennsylvania, USA
– Harry Hertscheg, Executive Director, Vancouver Playhouse
International Wine Festival, BC

These are many of the who’s who of Canadian wine. I will be there for
the entire days of Monday and Tuesday, and will help present two
sessions: the Media Relations panel and the Social Media panel. The
rest of the time I will be busy learning and proudly enjoying our
great wine and food!

I hope to see you there! If you have any questions, feel free to email
me at brufrog@gmail.com call 647 8466, or go to
www.atlanticwinesymposium.ca.

WINE OF THE WEEK
Some of you may have noticed the new listings from New Brunswick’s
Happy Knight on the ANBL shelves. This is a new winery operation based
in Hatfield Point at the head of Belleisle Bay.  Owned by Matt &
Angela Guptill, their first wines were made by Dominic Rivard at his
Muwin Estate on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, but Matt and Angela
plan to move production to their Hatfield Point location. They
currently have three wines, an apple, cranberry and black currant, all
made from Maritime fruit. They sell for $12.99 and are well
distributed around New Brunswick liquor stores. They are all clean and
taste of the fruit they are made from, but my favourite is the Black
Currant, which has elegance,  light strawberry and currant flavours
and seems well balanced. Learn more about them at
happyknightwines.com

WHAT A SPRING! CHECK OUT THESE OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS
Fundy Food Festival, Saint John, May 5
This Saturday is the best time (and place – the Marco Polo Cruise Ship
terminal) to try a range of the most excellent cuisine produced in New
Brunswick, with several dozen vendors present. Be sure to check out
the Chef Auction packages at  www.fundyfoodfestival.com

Wine and Food Fest, Fredericton, May 12
The 13th annual event features a wide range of beverages and food,
held at the Fredericton Delta, with proceeds going to the Canadian
Diabetes Association, www.wineandfoodfest.ca

Atlantic Beer Festival, Moncton, May 26
This annual event held at the Moncton Coliseum, is always a blast for
beer lovers. Local and international brands will be featured along
with various craft and micro brewed offerings,
www.atlanticbeerfestival.ca

Festivin, Caraquet, May 26-June 2
It is still a ways off, but be sure to mark this wonderful wine and
food week on your calendar, www.festivin.ca

Cheers!
Craig

Craig Pinhey is a writer, consultant and certified Sommelier. Find
outmore at www.frogspad.cawww.facebook.com/Craig.Pinhey.FrogsPad,
www.twitter.com/frogspadca, or email Craig at brufrog@gmail.com

IPA Blind Tasting

This is the unedited text of my Telegraph Journal Good Drink column for April 13, 2012:
IPA, India Pale Ale, is no doubt the most popular craft beer style these days, in terms of the incredible growth in interest in super hoppy beer.   If you travel in beer circles, as I often do, and go to some of the big craft beer markets like Quebec, the west coast of Canada and the USA, or – yes – Halifax, then you will find local brewers adding hops to beer at astonishing rates.

On a recent trip to California for wine purposes, I had the opportunity to enjoy a few local beers as well, and it was immediately evident that people there are used to highly hopped, bitter brews. Even the local dive bar had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a citrussy, bitter pale ale, as their only draft brew. I got used to drinking Lagunitas IPA as my regular hotel room “writing beer.”

IPA evolved in England in the early to mid 1800’s when they were sending beer to their troops in India. The short story version is that they discovered slightly stronger, drier, hoppier ales lasted better, so were fresher tasting on arrival. This was largely due to the natural preservative qualities of hops. In time these pale ales became trendy on the homefront too, displacing to some extent other styles like porter.

These IPAs led to the regular strength pale ales that are still popular in England today, but they also were the inspiration for the IPAs of today’s craft brewing renaissance, led by the Americans, mainly on the west coast, since the 1970’s. These days it is not uncommon for American beer bars to carry over ten IPAs on tap, including Double IPAs (stronger, more bitter) or even more extreme, usually with names indicating as such. Maximus, for example, is Lagunitas’ extra hoppy IPA, and they also brew one called Hop Stoopid. Enough said.

These IPAs should not be confused with Keith’s IPA, which bears no resemblance to IPAs as craft beer fans know them, either from history or in today’s craft beer movement. Maybe Keith’s was strong and bitter in the late 1800’s, but these days it is a basic Canadian style pale ale, with very low hop flavour and bitterness, and regular strength. It should really be called a pale ale.

How bitter is bitter? To understand IPAs and Double IPAs, one needs to be calibrated to the IBU (International Bitterness Units) of a beer.  A mainstream lager or ale is generally just under 10 or just over, maybe up to 12 IBUs.  A basic craft beer like a red or pale ale might be 15 to 25.  An English style bitter, American Pale Ale or hoppy European Pils is typically 25-40 IBUs, an Irish Stout like Guinness might be 30-40 IBUs, a basic IPA might be 40-70, whereas Double IPAs are usually 70 and over, and some extreme beers are listed as being 100 IBUs or above.

These numbers help consumers understand bitterness, but you also must consider the balance of a beer. A beer with malt sweetness will seem less bitter than a very dry beer.  So, a barley wine (sweet, strong ale) with 50 IBUs will seem far less bitter than a dry American IPA with the same IBUs.

I did a blind comparison this week of some IPAs available at the ANBL and at Premier, a private store in Halifax that specializes in beer, in order to see how our Atlantic bottled IPAs compare to some world IPA classics. Here are my notes, which should give you an idea of the range of aromas and flavours available in modern IPAs:

Lagunitas IPA, California (bought at Premier) – this has the colour of peach juice and is quite hazy. The aroma is mainly citrus (reminds me of orange lollipops), and is very forward and attractive.  It has a nice balance, being very bitter yet totally smooth, and finishes clean with no astringency.  Great IPA!

 

Brewdog Punk IPA, Scotland (bought at Premier) – from the revolutionary Brewdog, this is light yellowish gold and slightly hazy. It has intense grapefruit aromas, medium body, and a dry finish. Although bitterness is high, this has a delicious lingering malt finish.

 

Tree Hophead IPA, British Columbia (bought at Premier) –  peach colour, quite hazy, with a very citrussy nose, and a pleasing biscuity maltiness. This is less bitter than the Lagunitas and Brewdog. I would call this a moderately bitter, balanced IPA, with a nice long finish.

 

Picaroons Yippee IPA ($3.80/500 ml at ANBL), Fredericton – much darker than the rest, with a very hoppy, quite floral nose, alongside strong caramel notes, typical of Picaroons ales. This is quite full bodied with a very bitter finish but balanced nicely with caramel maltiness, making it atypical of North American IPAs. But I like it a lot.

 

Propeller IPA, ($13.45/6 pack at ANBL), Halifax, Nova Scotia –  golden, with very slight haze, and a mostly malty and quite fruity (rather than hoppy) nose, owing to the English ale yeast used. The bitterness is moderate for an IPA, but this has a very clean, refreshing palate.

 

SAINT JOHN BEERFEST

You can try locally made IPAs this Saturday April 14th at the Saint John Beerfest at Market Square in Uptown Saint John. This festival will feature over 90 beers to sample, as well as food from several local purveyors, all included in the ticket price. Tickets can be purchased at the Harbour Station Box Office for the price of $49.50 + tax and service charge.  There will be entertainment from Le Cirque. Please come visit me at Beer Geek Central, where I will be available to chat beer. There will also be three cask-conditioned ales available for sampling, from Moosehead, Picaroons and Pump House.  That will be the highlight of the festival! For more information go to their Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/SaintJohnBeerFest

 

Cheers!

Craig

 

Craig Pinhey is a writer, consultant and certified Sommelier. Find out more at www.frogspad.ca, www.facebook.com/Craig.Pinhey.FrogsPad, www.twitter.com/frogspadca, or email Craig at brufrog@gmail.com

 

Counting Calories – What’s Worse: Beer, Wine or Spirits?

This is the script from one of my CBC.ca/Shift radio interviews:

Counting Calories
With the new year in full gear, some people are still watching their
diets, trying to make a new year’s resolution. Perhaps many of you
decided to cut down on food, and maybe alcohol, to lose some weight.
You may be wondering if a light beer is that much better than a
regular one, or if red wine is more fattening than white. Our Wine Guy
Craig Pinhey is here this week to talk about different alcoholic
beverage choices and the calories they contain.

CBC: I understand you lost some weight by cutting out alcohol recently?
Craig: Not willingly!  I was so sick with a sore throat that I
couldn’t drink alcohol at all for over a week, and I didn’t eat much
either. I lost over 10 pounds, and it got me to thinking about how
much of that was due to no wine, beer or spirits.

CBC: What are the biggest culprits when it comes to alcoholic beverages?
Craig: Sweet cocktails. The most important factors are sugar and
alcohol, and in the case of some cocktails, fat. Alcohol itself has a
lot of calories.  A shot of any spirit is around 100 calories, which
is around the same as a typical 12 oz bottle of 4% light beer.   So
imagine if you make a cocktail with that, or make it a double. The
syrups and sugar in the juice for the cocktail, or the pop, or the
milky liqueur, make it even higher.  If it is a pina colada, then you
get extra calories from the coconut milk. A classic Pina Colada, with
3 oz of rum,  contains over 600 calories! To put that in perspective,
you would have to run steady for over an hour to burn that sucker off.

CBC: What about everyday cocktails – the ones most people drink?
Craig: A basic gin and tonic  with 1 ounce of gin, is around 150
calories, as is a single rum and coke, and a typical Cosmo is just
over 200 (according to calorieking.com).  If you choose a double, you
get in trouble. Coolers can be a problem, as they are often 6.9%
alcohol, and packed with fruit sugars.  Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard
Lemonade are over 220 calories each.

CBC: And what about beer? I assume there is a big  difference in all
the different beers out there.
Craig: There is a difference, but it is mainly related to alcohol
unless you are getting into the sweet specialty beers.  A 12 oz bottle
of 5% Moosehead Lager is around 150 calories, whereas the 4% version
is between 90 and 100.  12 oz of Guinness is only 125 calories because
it is dry and only 4% alcohol (but who only drinks 12 oz? – we always
buy a pint!). Some of the maltier, slightly sweet beers (reds, etc.)
can creep up to 200 calories, as they contain unfermented malt sugar.
High alcohol beers are of course higher in calories too, but we tend
to drink them in smaller portions. There are some special low cal
beers that are very dry and low in alcohol, like Molson 67 as in 67
calories,  but, let’s face it, they don’t taste like beer. If you like
them, that’s fine, but don’t try to tell a beer lover that they pass
for beer.

CBC: So is wine  a good choice for the calorie conscious?
Craig:  It is not bad. A typical 5 oz (150 ml) glass of 13% alcohol
dry red wine at is just over 100 calories, and a dry white might be
slightly lower, just under 100.  Sweet wine might have 50% higher
calories, but we generally drink smaller portions.   As with beer,
higher alcohol wines will have higher calories, so your 14-15% warm
climate wines will add a bit more beef.

I think the key here is to avoid the sugar in fruit, syrups and pop –
these are the worst culprits, to avoid doubles and triples, and to pay
attention to  portion size and alcohol levels  for beer and wine.  Or,
to run a lot.

Lo Cal Product of the Week?
Inniskillin Riesling 750 ml
Wines – Canada – VQA – White Table
Retail Price: $14.49

Drink’N’Music 2011

Drink’N’Music 2011

10 Favourite Records of 2011, Paired with 10 Favourite Tipples

Craig Pinhey

An annual exercise for this Sommelier is to match beverages, not just to a several course meal, but also to music. I started Drink’N’Music in 2006 (go to my website www.frogspad.ca for previous years), matching each of my favourite albums of the year to a wine, beer, spirit or cocktail.

Music taste is personal, just as one’s tastes in food and drink, so I don’t expect readers to always like what I like, but you might give some a try if they sound appealing. Try it yourself with your own favourites. I’m not interested in top selling Billboard pop acts like Rhianna, Coldplay, Katy Perry, and certainly not Maroon 5, but that shouldn’t stop you from finding something good to drink with them.

Here are my top 10 albums of 2011, with drinks!

1. Ron Sexsmith – Long Player, Late Bloomer (Canada, Pop/Folk)

This Ontario pop and folk singer songwriter has long had critical acclaim but financial success has eluded him for the most part, not an unfamiliar story for talented Canadian artists. For Long Player, Late Bloomer Sexsmith worked with hit-making producer Bob Rock, and the result is slicker, more pop than folk, tighter, with what some would call calculated arrangements and almost too perfect harmonies. This said, the songs are fantastic and the album has done very well, which Sexsmith deserves. Love Shines, which is also the title track of an excellent film documentary about Sexsmith, is a stand out track, but the whole album is hit-worthy.  His lyrics are as good as ever, and perhaps No Help At All tells his story best.

“I’ve been learning all my lessons the hard way
Nursing the exit wound
From a near fatal mistake
You could say it was time for a wake up call
But I never did get that call
There was no help at all”

What to Drink: I’d drink a similarly award worthy Canadian beer, something honest like Picaroons Best Bitter ($3.80/500 ml). Picaroons won Brewery of the Year at the 2011 Canadian Brewing Awards. Regular strength English ale with balanced bitterness.

2. Sloan – The Double Cross (Canada, Rock and Roll/Pop)

Another critic’s darling that has never really made it outside Canada, Sloan put out another solid LP in 2011 to celebrate 20 years of records.  With 4 singer songwriters sharing time, this album might be good or great, depending on which guy you prefer.  I think Jay Ferguson’s songs are the best on this record, including Beverley Terrace and Green Gardens, Cold Montreal. This is a high quality, diverse album that, in a fair world, would make them even richer, instead of just paying the bills.

What to Drink: Being a Nova Scotia band, I’m picking my favourite beer from Halifax that we can get in New Brunswick right now, the quite hoppy but still very drinkable Propeller IPA ($13.45/6 pack)

3. Tim Finn – The View Is Worth The Climb (New Zealand, Pop)

One of the original members of New Zealand’s best ever band, Split Enz, Tim Finn still makes great, thoughtful pop music, much quieter than the Enz, but still full of pop hooks.

What to Drink: A smooth New Zealand red wine perfect for mellow contemplation: Nobilo Regional Collection Merlot $19.99.

4. Penny Blacks – harbour (Canada, Rock/Folk)

One of the more exciting New Brunswick acts, led by singer songwriter Jason Ogden, who is joined by a collection of local musicians, this is an elegant collection of songs, with complex yet singable melodies and refreshing arrangements. Kick off track You’ll Never Know is a highlight, but my favourite is the string infused She’s Losing Herself, which evokes UK greats Squeeze and Billy Bragg.

What to Drink: A local wine from Mott’s Landing, which are not yet available at the ANBL but you can buy from the winery in Cambridge Narrows.  For New Years, try their Cranpagne, a tasty sparkling cranberry/grape wine.

 

5. They Might Be Giants – They Got Lost (USA, Rock/Pop)

After some successful kids albums, this is a true return to form, sounding a lot like their quirky 80’s efforts: edgy pop with lots of humour.

What to Drink: Try a fun, colourful tropical cocktail, Cruzan White Rum ($24.99/750 ml) and pineapple juice, with a splash of lemon or lime juice and a cherry and lime garnish.

6. The Cars – Move Like This (USA, New Wave)

Better than their last album, which was over 20 years ago! This has 4 or 5 really cool tracks (particularly Blue Tip and Sad Song), and the rest is pretty fine. It’s just great to hear this sharp synth/guitar band singing their tight harmonies again.

What to Drink: a clean, cutting white wine like Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, $12.99

7. Nick Lowe – The Old Magic (UK, Jazzy Country Ballads)

Some of the best crooning on record. Nick’s House For Sale gets my vote for song of the year.

What to Drink: A Vodka Collins, made with fresh squeezed lemons, out on the back patio on a hot summer day. I use Prince Igor Extreme Vodka ($25.99) from Ontario.

8. Will Currie and the Country French – Awake, You Sleepers (Canada, Pop)

An energetic new pop band along the lines of Ben Folds, Ben Kweller, and Sloan. Check them out!

What to Drink: Ontario Riesling, from Vineland Estates ($20.99), Cave Spring ($17.29) or others.

9. Tom Waits – Bad As Me (USA, Weird Jazzy Folk Rock Blues)

Waits is back with another record of eclectic sounds.  Hard to describe, but I love it.

What to Drink: Campari ($25.29/750 ml) and soda. This aperitif from Italy is bright red, complex, bitter, herbal and fruity.  Hard to describe, but I love it.

10. Pugwash – The Olympus Sound/ tied with Thomas Dolby – Map of the Floating City (UK, Pop)

Two great pop records, one a newish band, Ireland’s Pugwash, who bring back the Beatles and ELO sound, and the other a New Wave pioneer, Thomas Dolby, who returns triumphantly with a brilliant record, his first album since 1992.

What to Drink: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and St. Ambroise Pale Ale, two of Canada’s best beers ($14.53/6-pack). Mix them as a Black and Tan or drink separately.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

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

Learning Sauvignon Blanc from the Masters

Good Drink for November 18, 2011
Learning Sauvignon Blanc from the Masters

When wine lovers think about Sauvignon Blanc these days, more often than not
New Zealand is the source. The Loire region of France may be the traditional home
of Sauvignon Blanc, and the source of many of the best, but, since the 1970’s, New
Zealand has become a “go to” region for Sauvignon Blanc, particularly the region of
Marlborough, on the northeastern corner of the South Island.

I am traveling in New Zealand this week with a small group of journalists, mainly
visiting wineries under the Constellation umbrella, but also spending some time with a
few other producers.

A look down to Cloudy Bay

After arriving in Blenheim in Marlborough midday following a long series of airplanes
(and airport bars), I was greeted at Drylands Winery by three winemakers and invited to
partake in a Sauvignon Blanc Master Class. Chief Winemaker Darryl Woolley is a true
master of this grape, having made Sauvignon Blanc for several decades. Joining Woolly
were Dave Edmonds, winemaker at Drylands, and Anthony Walkenhorst, winemaker at
nearby Kim Crawford.

 

Winemaker Darryl Woolley in front of some Marlborough Vineyards

We started with a refresher course on the overall picture of Sauvignon Blanc in New
Zealand and an overview of the various sub-regions. Wine had been made for decades
in New Zealand before Sauvignon Blanc was determined to be a perfect grape for
Marlborough, which really only developed as a wine region starting in the 1970’s. The
cool climate, with warm days and cool nights, produces Sauvignon Blanc with fresh
acidity and great varietal character, including grapefruit, gooseberry, and passion fruit,

Now, largely anchored on the immense popularity of Sauvignon Blanc and, more
recently, Pinot Noir, the wine industry in New Zealand is worth over a billion dollars
annually, and Marlborough is their largest wine growing region. Things are really
looking up recently, too, with 2011 seeing an increase in exports thus far, and with a
2011 harvest that is the largest ever.

The team showed charts illustrating that the Marlborough region is pretty much fully
planted now, so they are looking to other parts of New Zealand.

The most interesting part of the session, though, was a look at how different sub-regions
in Marlborough have different aromatics due to terroir differences. This is reflected in
the various brands under the Constellation portfolio, which source grapes from different
subregions.

The main Sauvignon Blanc aromatics come from Methoxypyrazines and Volatile
Thiols. Some of the notable methoxypyrazines found in Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
include capsicum, nettles, and tomato leaf. Volatile Thiols fall into three main groups:
3MH, which smell like grapefruit and passion fruit, 3MHA: which can give sweaty
(body odour) notes, along with passion fruit and gooseberries, and 4MMP: smelling of
“broom” (a pungent smelling plant), cats and boxwood.

We tasted two blind flights of Sauvignon Blanc to identify these varietal characteristics,
and discussed how different terroirs product different levels.

It was noted that the 2011 Monkey Bay had pleasant minerality alongside citrus fruit
and fresh acidity. Meanwhile the 2011 Nobilo Regional Selection showed some of the
sweaty, grapefruit aromas, as well as great acidity. The 2011 Kim Crawford Sauvignon
Blanc/Pinot Gris (80% Sauvignon) was quite distinct, with some herbaceous jalapeno
notes, as well as crisp, lemony acidity. The winemakers explained how much of this
difference came from the source of the grape, rather than anything they did to the wine.

Kim Crawford Winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst

Our second flight started with a 2011 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, well known to
New Brunswickers, which had a really tasty, minerally, white flower, citrus, tropical
and pear fruit nose, as well as good acidity. Next to it the Drylands 2011 was clearly
different, with loads of grapefruit peel, flowers, and some “sweaty” notes, as well as
fuller body. . . The vineyards around Drylands are the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vineyards
in the country, over 30 years and counting. We also tried the Nobilo Icon, which has
lovely fresh mineral and grassy veggie notes, as well as crisp, limey acidity.

Finally, we had the 2011 Kim Crawford Small Parcels Sauvignon Blanc, selected from
the area around Drylands winery. Not surprisingly, it had a lot of that same grapefruit
character as the Drylands wine, as well as minerality and great acidity.

These were all very good wines, very similar to some extent – they certainly all have
that Marlborough intensity – but also quite different in several ways. By knowing where
the grapes came from, you can predict the style, and thus choose for your own personal
tastes.

It was a great experience to talk about great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with the
people who make them…and to taste the wines with them too, of course!

WINE OF THE WEEK
The best value in the tasting was Monkey Bay, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that has
classic varietal character, with mineral and citrus, but without too much of the extreme,
pungent notes that might be too much for some people. It is only $16.99. It is a great
wine for a refreshing aperitif, or with basic fish dishes.

Cheers!
Craig

See more from Craig Pinhey at www.frogspad.ca, www.facebook.com/
Craig.Pinhey.FrogsPad, www.twitter.com/frogspadca, and he can be reached at
brufrog@gmail.com

Canadian Single Malt Whisky Wins Big

Good Drink for October 21, 2011
Canadian Single Malt Whisky Wins Big
By Craig Pinhey

Those of you who, like me, think single malt whisky from Scotland is one of the best premium spirit categories, probably also understand that just because the most famous versions come from Scotland doesn’t mean other countries can’t make high quality single malt whisky. Japan is serious about it, as is Ireland. So is Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton.

The tasters who participated in the 2011 International Review of Spirits, held by the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago, certainly agree, as they scored two Glenora Whiskies at 95 and 93 points out of 100, respectively.  That’s damn close to perfect!

Glenora, who make their single malt whiskies in the town of Glenville, on the gorgeous west coast in Inverness County,  recently won a 9 year battle with the Scots (the Scottish Whisky Association, actually) over the right to use the word Glen in trademarks, so this is just another in a series of good news items. Their regular release, the “Rare 10 Year Old Single Malt Canadian Whisky,” available at the ANBL for $75.99, was scored 95, and described as “exceptional,”  while their “Battle of the Glen” 15 Year Old Single Malt Canadian Whisky, bottled in honour of the 1999 trademark win, was scored 93, and also pronounced as “exceptional.”  That’s impressive.

 

To put this in perspective, you can visit the www.tastings.com website and see scores on various single malt Scotch whiskies.  The four highest scoring Scottish Single Malts currently on the site, all scoring 95, were Springbank 15 Year Old, Glenlivet XXV,  Dalmore Astrum 40 Year Old, and Isle of Jura 21 Year Old.  These range in price (American prices) from $115-$3000!  This makes the Glenora 10 Year Old seem quite a value at $75 Canadian.  Note that the Glenora products are not yet on their site, being very recent results.

Regardless of what you think of scoring spirits, wines, or anything, these results show that we should be proud of our whisky, and think of it on the same level as our favourite Scotch, even if it is not trying to be Scotch – it is a delicious beverage in its own right.

The Rare 10 Year Old was also listed in whisky expert Ian Buxton’s book: 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die.

Adding to these results was the recent results of the 2011 “World Whiskies Awards” associated with Whisky Magazine, where Battle of the Glen was in the shortlist for “Best of the Rest of the World Single Malt” and was the top in the 13-20 year old category. 
This category refers to Single Malts not from Scotland or Japan. Interestingly, the top overall Single Malt and Blended Malt in the World at this competition were both from Japan! It sounds like the Scots should worry about the Japanese rather than picking on a small distillery in Nova Scotia.

I visited the distillery again recently, luckily catching part of the annual Celtic Colours festival at the same time. I had a brief tour, tasting some older barrel samples, then the Battle of the Glen and Rare 10 Year Old, alongside several others. In my estimation the quality of the whisky from Glenora has consistently improved, and what they have on offer now is very special indeed.

There are particular house characteristics, which I noted as apple fruit and floral notes such as heather and lavender. There are also the expected smoky notes, although subtle, and woody flavours, as well as some honey and caramel-malt flavours. The Battle of the Glen has more “oomph” than the Rare 10 Year Old, with more body, complexity and wood flavours, including caramel.

After this I simply enjoyed the free live fiddle and piano music in their cozy pub, with a good meal, and took a lovely walk the next morning (after a hearty breakfast at the inn) to check out the changing fall colours, before heading to the Red Shoe pub in Mabou for a delicious lunch with NS craft beer from Propeller and Garrison.  The inn, distillery and surrounding area are true Maritime treasures. For more information go to www.glenoradistillery.com.

WHISKY OF THE WEEK
Glenora Rare 10 Year Old Single Malt Canadian Whisky $74.99

Raise Your Spirits!
Don’t miss this annual spirits festival in Fredericton November, where you can taste dozens of premium spirits, including single malt whiskies, for a very fair single ticket price. Go to www.whiskynb.ca for details.

Merlot!
This Tuesday, October 25th I’m doing a Merlot tasting in Saint John at happinezwinebar.com

Cheers!
Craig

Magnetic Hill and Verger Belliveau Orchards Win Big at 2011 Atlantic Canada Wine Awards

Good Drink for September 23, 2011

Magnetic Hill and Verger Belliveau Orchards Win Big at 2011 Atlantic Canada Wine Awards
By Craig PinheyIt is always nice for a winery to hear from their loyal customers that they love their wines, and of course it is even nicer to hear that cash register ring (or whatever they do these days to signify a sale), but it is also very satisfying to have a panel of independent industry experts evaluate a flight of wines and select yours as one of the best. Not only does this give the producer a bit of a high, it also gives them a marketing tool, and that is why wineries enter competitions like the recent Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards.

Two weekends ago, myself and a dozen other judges gathered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to judge over 90 Atlantic Canadian wines in several classes, and then this past weekend I travelled to Wolfville for the Nova Scotia Fall Wine Festival kickoff dinner, where the results were announced.  I cover the whole Atlantic region for Wine Access magazine, so I have a good working knowledge of all the wines, not just New Brunswick. Thus I was very interested in all the results, but it sure was nice to hear a couple of New Brunswick wineries announced as medal winners.

Moncton’s Magnetic Hill was one of the biggest winners at the competition, with 6 of their wines winning medals. They also won the Dessert Wine Of The Year award, for their Chocolate River Spiced Fruit Dessert wine.

Owners Jeff and Janet Everett were thrilled with the results. “Especially the Illusions (dry Rhubarb wine) as that is 2 years running,” notes Jeff Everett,  “as well as the Evangeline Blanc (Strawberry-Rhubarb), also 2 years running.”

Magnetic Hill has been trying some different techniques and ideas to make diverse fruit wine, including oak ageing rhubarb wine and making a Sherry-style wine from fruit.   Mainly though, it is clean, defect free wine that wins at these competitions, and they do that well.

“We are working hard at creating consistency in our wines,” notes Everett, “and for the past 3 years our ability to manipulate varying fruit consistency has been strong and has helped to show consumers that the wines are what they are used to, and there are no crazy swings in flavours or quality…this should help in maintaining sales and building a wider customer base.”

They also don’t rest on their laurels.  Although their dessert wines are good sellers and are winning awards, they have some new stuff planned. “We will be releasing a brandy style maple wine, aged in a Glenora (the Cape Breton single malt producer) spent oak barrel in the spring,” adds Everett.

Their son Zach is in the business too, having travelled the wine world the past few years, working at various wineries and vineyards, as well as helping at the family winery, but he’s recently headed off to Mexico to open his own winery in Baja, a growing region.  “It is disappointing to have lost Zach to Mexico,” says Everett, “as we felt we could grow to crazy levels with his abilities from languages to marketing and worldly experiences and youth and energy, but 330 days of 23+ºC and sunny doesn’t sound all that bad.”

The other big New Brunswick winner was Belliveau Orchards, who won several medals including a Gold for their Pear wine ($12.99 at the ANBL), a much awarded wine over the past few years.   Like Magnetic Hill, Belliveau recently got into the grape growing game, so we should expect some new grape based wines from both in the next year or two.

In the meantime, though, you can buy their excellent, award winning fruit wines at their own stores or at farmer’s markets. Magnetic Hill is unfortunately not yet available at the ANBL.

WINE OF THE WEEK
Belliveau Pear Wine ($12.99) – a fruity white with good body and tree fruit flavours that reminds one of Alsace grape wines.

Cheers!

Craig

Canadian Wine Awards Hit Nova Scotia

From the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal

One of the biggest stories in Atlantic wine circles in years is what is going on in Halifax and in the wine country of Nova Scotia this week. Wine Access magazine decided to hold its Canadian Wine Awards (CWA) judging and related events in our neighbouring province, marking the first time it has ever been held anywhere other than British Columbia and Ontario.

Click to Enlarge
Photo: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal
Craig Pinhey’s wine pick of the week is an Ontario wine that won a silver last year: Inniskillin Niagara Series Pinot Grigio, VQA – $14.49.

This is significant for several reasons. First, it is the first time that many of these wine judges have been to the province and seen the wine region. There are key nationally known wine journalists (Tony Aspler, Tony Gismondi, David Lawrason), folks with weekly columns in their relative provinces (Bill Zacharkiw of the Montreal Gazette, Ben Macphee-Sigurdson of the Winnipeg Free Press, and myself), and other important wine professionals (Janet Dorozynski, in charge of Canadian Wine at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Vancouver-based sommelier and instructor D.J. Kearney, Calgary’s Tom Firth, Quebec wine journalist Remy Charest, master sommelier John Szabo of Toronto, master of wine Rhys Pender from British Columbia, as well as Stuart Tobe and Sid Cross, two influential Vancouver judges. There are also two local guest judges this year who work in Halifax: sommelier and food/drink consultant Mark DeWolf and sommelier/owner of Obladee Wine Bar Heather Rankin. We have been working all week to choose the best wines from more than 1,100 submissions from across Canada.

Because the awards are being held at the Delta Halifax, judges are spending time in the city, eating at the restaurants and touring the sights in the evenings. We headed out to wine country on Monday and Tuesday evenings to get a feel for what is happening in the industry as well as to eat at some of the best restaurants, including Tempest in Wolfville and Le Caveau at Domaine de Grand Pré winery.

This will result in media coverage for our wineries and restaurants, as well as the local food industry in general.

The other significant implication is that this is a major effort by Canada’s most respected national wine magazine to connect with Atlantic Canadian wine. This shows that our region is coming of age, and that the rest of the country is paying attention. This is happening mostly because of a general increase in investment in grapes and wine as well as a corresponding increase in variety and quality.

This was reflected clearly on Monday evening when we travelled to visit the two premiere traditional method (made the same way they do in Champagne) sparkling specialists in the Gaspereau Valley: L’Acadie Vineyards and Benjamin Bridge. The Gaspereau branches off just south of the Annapolis Valley, and boasts some of the best, most valuable vineyard land in Atlantic Canada. At L’Acadie we sampled four vintages (2005 through 2008) of their 2010 CWA Gold Medal winning Prestige Brut, a rich and creamy bubbly with good acidity. Benjamin Bridge put on a similar show for visiting wine pros, offering samples of several vintages and variations of their elegant, premium sparklers. Those judges who had never sampled premium Nova Scotia bubbly were quickly convinced.

Dinner followed at Tempest, with wines from Muir Murray and Annapolis Highland vineyards.

After another day of judging another approximately 90 Canadian wines, we headed off to the valley again, this time to see the new Luckett Vineyard facility, a gorgeous building with an even more impressive view. Owner Pete Luckett was our host, and he treated us to tasty snacks and several of their 2010 wines. There is probably no prettier place to enjoy a glass of wine and a tasty snack in Atlantic Canada. This is a tourism destination, and will be even more so when they open a winery restaurant in another year or two.

Next was Gaspereau Vineyards close by. We tried several fine efforts, including their famous Riesling, with local wine legend Hans Christian Jost and winemaker Gina Haverstock leading the tasting. After that treat, we headed to Domaine De Grand Pré for a quick tasting and then dinner, paired with wines from Bear River, Petite Riviere and of course Grand Pré. A great tine was had by all,

Domaine De Grand Pré is a genuine wine and food destination, recently honoured as one of 20 great winery restaurants in Wine Access.

Even though we judges were having lots of fun with tours and dinners, it is the wine judging that counts, and the wine quality this year was better than ever.

Results will be announced in a forthcoming issue of wineaccess.ca. Watch for it.

 

WINE OF THE WEEK

I’d like to pick one of the fresh new Tidal Bay appellation whites from Nova Scotia, but they are not, unfortunately, available in New Brunswick. So, here is an Ontario wine that won a silver last year: Inniskillin Niagara Series Pinot Grigio, VQA – $14.49 – a fresh wine with pear and mineral in the nose.

Cheers!

 

Craig Pinhey is a local wine writer and sommelier. Follow him at www.twitter.com/frogspadca or “like” him at facebook.com/Craig.Pinhey.FrogsPad

Can You Tell if a Wine’s Been Messed With, And Do You Care?

Good Drink, December 3rd, 2010, The Telegraph Journal

By Craig Pinhey

One of the common discussions I get into when tasting wines with a group of wine professionals is the issue of  wine that’s been manipulated, also referred to as “messed with.”   Basically, we sometimes encounter wine that seems so artificial that we conclude that it has likely been doctored in the winery, whether it has been overly acidified, giving it Sweet Tart/sour candy aromas and citrus flavours, or has been treated with heavily toasted oak to cover up everything else, resulting in coffee and chocolate aromas and flavours, but no fruit.

These are just two examples of the many ways wines can be altered.

It’s a controversial issue, because there are many practices used in the wine world to try to make a wine more balanced and drinkable, and there are also  rules that prevent certain techniques, both in the vineyard and in the winery,  although these rules differ greatly around the world.  In some areas you can’t  irrigate or acidify wines, but you can chaptalise (add sugar to the must before fermentation) and deacidify. In others you can’t chaptalise, but you can acidify and irrigate, and dealcoholise.  Rules are made to suit the climate.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how hot climate wines are often dealcoholised to bring them into balance, or to save on taxes charged for wines that are too boozy.  It has long been common in warm terroir like in Australia for acid to be added to bring freshness, because the grapes ripen to the point where the acid drops too much, making the wine too ‘fat’.

It’s a bit hypocritical to criticise one region’s techniques for trying to make the best wine they can, while calling some of the old world techniques acceptable.  It has always been common practice in the cool climate regions in France (and parts of Canada) to add sugar to bring the alcohol up to desirable levels in order to provide body.  Other historical techniques included using grapes from other regions (countries?) to beef up light, thin wines in lesser vintages.  It’s not allowed according to France’s appellation laws, but still, it was done.

These days there are many scientific techniques that can be employed to manipulate a wine,  and vineyard practices have really improved in terms of getting riper grapes at harvest, so it is a new wine world, even in the old world regions. Do we want to halt progress?

Some big questions are: “Where do we draw the line at what is acceptable to do and what is not?”   “At what point are we preventing nature from exerting its own influence on a wine, losing the ‘terroir’ effect?”  “And, even if we are, then so what? If the wine is good, does it matter how we got to that point?”

There are varying opinions on these questions.  Where do you stand?

Here’s what I think on some of these techniques:

Chaptalisation – I think that it is OK but with a limit, which is essentially what most wine laws say.  Winemakers don’t want to add sugar, but they will if the final alcohol of a dry wine will cause it to be too weak and thin. So, for example, if a wine is going to come in at 11.5% without a sugar addition, I think it is prudent to take it up to 13%, as long as the wine is balanced and tastes good.

De-alcoholisation – I used to think this was a ridiculous thing to do, but, when you really think about it, it’s just the counter to Chaptalisation. It’s a tool used for too hot years in a warm climate.  I know that a lot of Zins in California are de-alced to the point where they have balance, but they still might be 15-16%.  What I don’t think is right is leaving the grapes to hang a long time until they get overripe. This too common practice results in raisiny wines that lack varietal character and require de-alc and acid adjustment.  If they picked the grapes earlier, perhaps no manipulation would be needed, and the wines would be more elegant, varietally correct,  and food friendly.

Acidification – Again, I don’t have a problem with this if the wine tastes good, and evokes the grape/terroir it was made from. Maybe a touch of acid can  bring a wine into perfect balance. What I don’t want are bulk wines where they buy a bunch of cheap, low acid juice from a hot climate region, blend it, acidify it, and sell it as house wine. That is NOT wine as I know it.

De-acidification – This is done in cool climates to bring acid under control. I know that some Finger Lakes (New York) Rieslings undergo this process, and the resulting wines are excellent and balanced.  I have no beef with this practice.

Oak Flavouring (Using toasted oak chips and oak staves in fermentation and aging tanks) – this is a way to not only give chocolate, coffee, nut and vanilla flavours, it also gives body and structure to a wine, and is much cheaper than barrel fermentation or barrel aging.  Philosophically, I don’t have a problem with using oak this way – the only reason oak barrels is the traditional way is that it was the best vessel they had back in the day. They didn’t know it would change and even improve  the flavours of wine.  That was a happy coincidence.  If they go over the top with oak, though, whether in barrel or with chips, the terroir is lost and the product does not taste like wine anymore.

Micro-oxidation (“MOX”) – this technique involves adding pure oxygen during fermentation, usually in the presence of oak, in order to give that smooth, aged taste that people love, without having to do a long barrel aging and/or bottle aging.  Since this is not written on labels, it is hard to know when it is used, but if you saw the documentary movie “Mondo Vino” you know it is regularly used by some top wine producers.  It seems to work, but I think it can be overused too, perhaps reducing the ageworthyness of a wine.

These are just some of the techniques used. Others include using enzymes to extract more flavours from the grape skins, using high temperature “flash” treatments to change tannin compounds at the molecular level, and adding tannins for colour stabilization, or a concentrated flavour and colour extract made from other grapes (e.g. “GrapEX”).   That last one, in my opinion, should be illegal everywhere except in homemade kit wine. All commercial wine should be made 100% from grapes from the area on the label, and from only the type of grape listed on the bottle. Truth in labelling!

There are basically two camps: those of us who want wines that express terroir with no “winemaker cheating,”  and those who don’t care how they make wine, as long as it is safe to drink and tastes good.

There is a trend, mainly in France, for some producers to go the opposite direction. They call this “Natural” wine. We have none of these products on the shelves in NB, but you can buy some in Quebec. In Paris, France and New York City there are several wine bars that ONLY sell natural wines. These wineries let the land speak for itself. They believe in minimal winemaker intervention. They are organic or biodynamic, and use no tricks, no sulphites, etc.  It’s a nice concept, and I’d love to see a few in New Brunswick, as I know there are consumers who really want that kind of product…wines that haven’t been messed with by anyone but Mother Nature.

Wine of the Week:

JF Lurton Terra Sana Organic Red, Vin De Pays, France,  $17.29  – this label is made from organically grown Merlot and Syrah.  It’s a modern, earthy red, with lots of fruit and a pleasant herbal component. There is a white partner to this wine as well.

Cheers!

Craig Pinhey is a Sommelier and freelance writer. Visit him at www.frogspad.ca or www.twitter.com/frogspadca

A Glenfiddich Excursion at the Beautiful Banff Springs Hotel

Excerpt from Good Drink, New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, November 19th, 2010

By Craig Pinhey

When you want to taste the really good stuff, sometimes you have to make an effort, take a trip.   That’s why I spent October 22nd and 23rd at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta for the North of 50 Rare Whisky Weekend, culminating in the tasting of a bottle of Glenfiddich 50 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky. I was fortunate to be part of a small group of media from across the country brought in to cover the event, which was also attended by North of 50 contest winners from across the country.  As part of their contest entries, they were asked to share words of wisdom passed on from their fathers or mentors, to reflect the family tradition of Glenfiddich parent company William Grant & Sons, one of the last remaining independent family owned distilleries.

I ran into New Brunswick winner Melissa Doucet, one of 9 selected winners,  several times during the festivities. The 25 year old from Dieppe was having a grand old time with her partner Francois Hachey, at the classically styled, historic (for Canada, anyway) castle that is the Banff Springs Hotel. They were revelling in the experience, really enjoying learning about whisky from Ian Millar, Global Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich.

Why Banff Springs? Well, it turns out there is a connection between Glenfiddich and the hotel. The first product from their Dufftown, Scotland, distillery was produced in 1887. That same year, the Banff Springs Hotel was founded by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The connection is that CPR founder George Stephen was a Scot himself, from the very same Dufftown.

We arrived on Friday night in time for a quick reception, heading to bed early in order to be fresh for a full day experience on Saturday. For me this started with an after breakfast walk around this impressive facility, including a walk down to the Bow River and a dip in the outdoor heated pool, with gorgeous views to the hotel buildings and surrounding mountains.  I have always wanted to stay there, and now I want to go back with my family.

The first event was an entertaining barrel demonstration hosted by Millar, with visiting cooper Ian MacDonald. New Brunswick’s Hachey tried his hand at putting together a barrel, with pretty good success. Most of the rest of the day was spent travelling around to various stations in the resort, combining a Banff Springs Hotel history lesson with a vertical tasting of increasing age levels of Glenfiddich Whisky: 12, 15, 18 and 21.  One needs to be clear about barrel age designation. Millar explained that the age stated means that no whisky in that barrel is younger. One drop of 8 year old whisky in a barrel of 12 year old means that barrel is now an 8 year old.

We started in Heritage Hall with the best selling Single Malt in the world, Glenfiddich 12 Year Old. There was also a food pairing element – my favourite part!  We were served raw oysters with a bit of tomato salsa/relish and also a sample of smoked salmon with the fruity and soft 12 Year Old.    This whisky is matured in American and European oak casks, and is quite smooth, with no smoky peaty notes.

Next stop was the Stanley Thompson room, for a wee dram of Glenfiddich 15 Year Old,  a darker, sweeter whisky aged in sherry, bourbon and new oak casks, then blended together in their Solera vat (this whisky used to be called “Solera”). This vat is never emptied, always kept half full, so that the whisky bottled from it maintains consistency of flavour, and also contains a significant amount of much older whisky.  While Millar often recommends a few drops of spring water added to your single malt — they had bottles of real Glenfiddich spring water in ready supply at all events – he does not use it in the 15, preferring to enjoy its sweet honey, fruit and spice flavours “neat.”  The food pairings for the 15 Year Old were a brie and apple combo, and a mini venison mushroom pie.  Both were delicious with the nutty-sweet sherry flavours of the whisky.

On to Grapes Wine Bar, a cozy little spot with a Canadian wine focus, where we sampled the 18 Year Old with samples of  bacon wrapped scallop and fig, and foie gras.  The 18 used to be called Reserve, and is aged in Spanish Oloroso (Sherry) casks and American (Bourbon) casks. It’s a rich and spicy whisky for which Millar suggested only 1 or 2 drops of water to help bring out the aromatics.

The 21 Year Old, aged in Rum casks, was served with a decadent creme brulee, at our final stop, in the Ivor Petrak room, which has great views to the valley. The rum casks and age impart a sweet smooth toffee note to the 21.
Henry VIII could eat here!
Henry VIII could eat here!

After a break we finished off the event with a decadent dinner in the massive Mt. Stephen Hall, which reminded me of where King Henry VIII might have eaten his meals.  We sampled 30 Year Old, and 40 Year Old Glenfiddich, along with smoked salmon with a warm Galloway cheese and apple tart, a leek and potato soup with poached egg and Finnan haddock, and a main of grilled beef tenderloin.    This was a fantastic banquet. The coup de grace was the presentation of the 50 Year Old brought out with much fanfare (including a bagpiper!)   This is notorious for being the most expensive bottle of single malt ever auctioned, only 500 bottles were produced and the one released in Canada retails for $26,000.  The casks for this whisky were laid down between 1937 and 1939: 9 casks – one for each of the none children of William Grant.

We were each served what looked to be around a quarter to half an ounce, so that equates to approximately $500-1000 each. Wow. Taste wise, I’ll be completely honest that, on tasting the 30, 40 and 50 at this event, it becomes difficult to discern details of each, what with all the food and the full day of tasting.  However, there is no doubt that all were delicious. When it comes to cask-aged single malt, as the years go up, the flavours from the wood tend to dominate the ‘terroir’ elements of the whisky, giving lots of sweetness and complexity, and a long pleasant finish.

This is 50 year old whisky, y'all
This is 50 year old whisky, y'all


Let’s face it: this is the only way that the event winners and I will ever taste this whisky. It was fun. It was decadent.  But there is no way that any drink is worth that much money. I’ll take the 15 Year Old, any day, for value ($56.99).