Saturday, 22 July 2017

Chardonnay is what the "Cool kids" are sipping!

Hey Wine Lovers

First of all, no kids should sip Chardonnay, "please stick to the rivers and lakes that you're used to." (TLC reference)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the "School of Cool" put on by the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration - I4C17 in Niagara. It was a day-long seminar on all things cool climate chardonnay. The event was moderated by John Szabo a Master Sommelier like in the movie "Somm" so pretty badass. Our keynote speaker was Karen Macneil who really knew how to speak to people about wine. "Hot climate is power, cool climate is elegance" among many things she talked about that really resonated with my wine bone. We also had a special guest Belinda Kemp from Brock University who should be called "Dr. Cool, Chardonnay".

The seminar was broken down into three sections

1. "Soil Smackdown" which much to my disappointment involved very little actually smacking down. It was a panel lead discussion on which soil type is best for Chardonnay, different expressions of soil and its effect on the character of the wine...essentially all things terroir. It was a total nerd fest for which I was front row center with a smile on my face :)

2. "I do it my way" which was discussing various techniques different winemakers use to create their own version of what chardonnay means to them. To oak or not to oak, that is the question. To age on the lee's or not, for those wondering no there isn't a girl named Lee who bathes in the wine to help it age. Note: Aging on the lees "Sur Lie" means letting the wine sit on its yeast which has fallen to the bottom of the tank or barrel which add's complexity to a wine. Norman Hardie for instance in P.E.C. turns his old steel milk containers used as fermentors on their sides to increase the lees to wine surface ratio to further enhance the "Sur Lie" characters. Shhh...don't tell anyone it's his secret.

3. "The Sugar Trials" which again I thought was going to be epic with someone shouting "You can't handle the truth" but alas it was cordial and educational. This session was about how much dosage if any should be added to sparkling wine. "Dosage" is usually a sugar or blend of wine and sugar added to a sparkling wine after its second fermentation. We tasted "Nature" which didn't have any dosage and was bone dry all the way to one that had about 13G/L of sugar added for which the room agreed was a tad overdone. The winemaker took the opinion of the room in stride, but secretly I think poisoned a few loudmouths next sample because I haven't seen them since.

The school of cool ended the fabulous day of educational discussions with a "networking event" just outside the conference room which as you can see by the picture below was strictly business and zero fun. FYI when a wine industry hosts a "networking event" I highly suggest you go and make sure you have designated driver. I had the chance to meet winemakers from Niagara, P.E.C, Austria, Quebec, Chile, Spain, France you get the picture. I think I met one from New Zealand but after a non disclosed amount of samples I forgot. #DontJudge

Paul from Burgundy 

Yes Please 

Austria VS Quebec 

Do you have any Chardonnay?

When Norman Hardie from P.E.C. poured me a glass of his wine I nearly fell to the floor, this guy is a Canadian wine rockstar.

The LCBO right now until August 3rd is offering all of the 82 unique and collectible cool climate chardonnays for purchase online. You can either have them delivered to your door or shipped to your nearest store but you have to order them online. Check them out!

I truly fell in love with our Canadian Chardonnay that day tasting Hidden Bench, Southbrook, Stratus, Thirty Bench, Tawse, Bachelder and the Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catherine Carte Blanc de Blanc 2012 sparkling wine. I tasted around the globe but honestly, our Chardonnays from home are top notch and for me, blew a Chablis Premier Cru I tasted out of the water! I highly suggest you ditch the cheap Tuesday sweatpants wine, split a bottle with a friend to keep it affordable and splurge on some of these $20-$50 bottles because it will be an experience you'll remember. I'm very confident about the future of our nations wine industry but we have to take it seriously at home first before we can get the world to take us seriously.

Trust me, the world's famous wine regions like Burgundy are watching us and are probably a little bit nervous.

Happy Sipping from Niagara,

Ryan Sullivan

P.S. Thanks to Trisha the Operations Manager who helped me find a bedroom for the night so that I could enjoy my day. I also have to thank all of the volunteers who helped make this event totally awesome!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Game of Thrones Wine

Winter is coming! 

Ok not exactly, but for all of you Game of Thrones fans here is some wine you have to have.  I normally wouldn't jump on a bandwagon like this but with Bob Cabral's experience making some good wine you are getting some quality stuff with a fun collectors side for fans of the show. I'd happily drink this wine and I wouldn't say that for just any show or movie that had a themed wine. Check out the LCBO soon before they are gone!

Try this Game of Thrones Chardonnay at $29.95 from Central Coast California. It's actually 90% Chardonnay and 10% Riesling. Think stone fruit and floral notes which leads into a rich creamy fruit texture IE this wine has had some time in oak.

"Winter looms, but fair weather and a long summer have yielded a fine and elegant Chardonnay. Aromas of tree fruit and fragrant blossom lead to a rich palate, with notes of lemon and honey and racy acidity that would complement the finest cuisine of the realm. Brilliant with poultry, chestnut soup or almond-crusted trout."

Looking for something to pair better with roast beast or mutton? Check out this Game of Thrones Red Blend $29.95 from Paso Robles California. It has 8 red varietals, predominately Syrah, Tempranillo and Petit Syrah. Think dark black cherry, blackberry, vanilla and cocoa. 

"Sure to be enjoyed in all of the Seven Kingdoms, this carefully-crafted blend is brimming with black fruit aromas and flavours. The wine is robust, with a lush texture - complex notes of leather and spice are woven on a warm and spicy finish. Pour with hearty, filling dishes such as herbed rack of lamb or savoury sausage." 

Ok, so maybe you are King Joffrey and only the best will do. This wine is truly fit for a king or an aspiring high court schmooze. This Game of Thrones Napa Cabernet Sauvignon at $74.95 will have you feeling like you are sitting on the Iron Throne yourself and will certainly make it through a long, long winter. Think blackcurrant, vanilla and cocoa balanced nicely into a smooth long finish. Is it worth $74.95?...that's for you to decide. You will notice a presumable refinement in this wine that quite frankly you won't find in a bottle half its price. 

"From the finest vineyards in the Kingdom, a rich, complex cab that is fine-textured and luxurious. Patiently aged, and selected barrel-by-barrel, it is replete with flavours of blackcurrant, spice and hints of dusk rose, and would be superb with meat pies or venison. This wine will age successfully for several more seasons!" 

"When you play a game of thrones, you win or you die." 

Happy Sipping, 


Monday, 3 July 2017

How is a wine priced?

Hey Wine Lovers

I thought I would talk briefly about what is in the price of a wine.

Let's remember that at the end of the day we are talking about grapes that have been fermented turning it's sugar into alcohol. So why does some chardonnay for instance cost $14.95 and some sells for literally hundreds like a bottle of Montrachet from France?

No matter how you look at it, a winery won't survive if it doesn't have good business practices!

In my opinion there are a few factors that help shape the price of the wine. I like to think first how much does the land cost? If you want to buy land in Napa it's expensive as hell and practically already all used so that winery has to transfer the high cost of land into each bottle to turn a profit. If you were to head to say South America, land in the backroads of Argentina or Chile is much cheeper. This means right away it's easier to turn a profit because of the reduced cost of land.

There is more than just land that can affect the price of your wine, you need a team of people to help grow, harvest, ferment and bottle your wine. Would labor be expensive in France, you bet! In France from healthcare, holiday pay to taxes it's expensive to run a winery. This increases the cost per bottle of wine compared to say South Africa where workers may not have as many benefits or business taxes which help reduce the cost to the winemaker.

You can see that just like a business, winemaking is affected by these market conditions.

The weather can play a big part. Let's say there was an awful cool rainy start to the growing season with a hail storm (like there was in spring 2017) in Burgundy France and some vineyards had 40% to 60% of their vines destroyed. These winemakers still need to pay the bills so the smaller quantity of some burgundy from 2017 will be more expensive as a result. Now lets venture into the fact that there is now less wine for sale but the same amount of people want to buy it. This leads into the supply and demand supply + high demand = price goes up.

Now if a Toyota and a Mercedes both take you from A to B why does one cost 5x more? Well it's not just about the simple A to B but the enjoyment along the way. The bell's and whistles, the leather, the speed, the feel, the soul of the car. The same philosophy goes into wine. Is the wine you are drinking a simple every day wine or one worth waiting to celebrate with due to how amazing it is?  Do you get some simple citrus lemon and pear notes in your everyday Chardonnay or do you get stone, flint, an array of different fruits from citrus to tropical then ending with a slight nutty complex never ending finish? It all comes down to complexity! They may both be made from Chardonnay but one of these bottles is clearly not like the other. If the winemaker thinks they have made something special and they know it, they will charge appropriately. I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for and no $15 bottle of Pinot Noir will taste like a $150 one.

There is also the brand recognition. People like Starbucks or Nike because they are well known brand names that stand for quality and superiority. The same goes for wine. A wine from Chianti Classico or Montrachet are known for their higher standards of quality and as a result can charge more. Everyone has heard of Bordeaux or Napa, but have you heard of Torrontes, in Argentina? The point is if no one knows about Torrontes the winemakers have to price it lower to help encourage thrifty shoppers to give it a try based on the price point alone. You see the words Napa and people think " I've heard of that, I'll pick up this one" instead of where the heck is Maule thanks. I personally love sipping wine from lesser known wine regions because the quality is usually good and the price is less than the more brand name regions can be. I love sparkling wine from Burgundy, Red wine from Chile, White wine from South Africa. I'm kind of generalizing but by stepping outside of the "mainstream" you can find serious value.

Sometimes you just want a screaming lamborghini to show off. The wine world really does have a wine for everyone from a simple table wine for those on a tight budget to literally thousands for one bottle alone. Some people want to show off their Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafite or Domaine de la Romanee Conti, literally thousands of dollars. Now is a $5,000 bottle of wine worth $5,000? I don't think so but like art, the price is what people think its worth. I feel as soon as you get into the $50 range you are already sipping some very good quality wine. The step from $50 to $500 or to $5,000 I think the quality starts to plateau. I could probably tell a $10 bottle from a $100 one but I would probably struggle telling a $100 bottle from a $500 one.

My least favourite thing to note about wine is that I hate pizazz on a bottle. If I see cute penguins or a red bicycle or a huge description of how amazing the wine is on the back I'm usually turned off. I like simple, clean, factual and essential information. "The winemaker is a dreamer and they think you'll dream of this wine after you have tried it too" #Barf.

Take this Chablis Premier Cru I just purchased today. It's actually a special moment in my wine adventure because it is the first Premier Cru Chablis I have purchased.

Chablis is from Northern Burgundy, an excellent Chardonnay region that produces amazing crisp, mineral driven Chardonnay due to it's specific soil composition. Look at the back of the bottle.

No nonsense because the region Chablis and Premier Cru status say it all. It says "I'm fabulous and I know it. If you don't know who or what I am, I don't care because true wine lovers adore me and always will". If I want a fairy tale story I'll watch a Disney movie or read to a child....not when picking out wine. But hey if you like a bottle because of something cute on it my life's philosophy is to each their own.

Price does matter but it's not to say it's always better the more expensive a bottle may be. I've had some $20 red from Chile that has blown my mind and some red from the Rhone Valley for twice the price that left me going "Meh".  That being said, I still believe a $50 bottle should probably be better than a $10 one but I'd skip the Italian sports car mortgage payment bottles. I would love to try some one day, but I can't see me being able to afford one anytime soon.

Sip whatever wine puts on smile on your face because life is too short to drink bad wine.

Happy Sipping


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