December 30, 2011

Sediment from 2005

Growing wine in a northern climate means that getting enough sun to properly ripen the grapes is a perennial challenge. Okanagan grapes will usually ripen in terms of colour and flavour, but will often fail to develop enough sugars, resulting in lower alcohol and flabby, unbalanced wine. A controversial process called Chaptalization (adding sugar to the must before fermentation) is usually required to remedy this situation. John Schreiner touches on the issue in his excellent book Chardonnay And Friends; Variety Wines of British Columbia.

One of the side-effects of Chaptalization, however, is that the wines tend not to age as well, nor as long.

We have repeatedly heard that five years is about the maximum time for a BC wine to age, assuming Chaptalization. With that in mind, we began rooting through our cellar (closet) to see what might require opening.

Happily,we found this Merlot from Burrowing Owl. A 2005, it was a year over-due. So we roast a hunk of beef in its honour and cracked it open.

Even a six year-old BC Merlot can throw a nice, thick sediment if stored (and opened) properly.

The wine was exactly as it should be; medium body, medium alcohol and medium tannin. The flavour had changed from bright plum and cherry to richer, more complex leather, dried fruit and creamy-smooth oak characteristics. We started drinking it immediately after opening and, while it peaked quickly, it did not fall apart as a lesser wine would. Rather, it maintained its signature structure through to the last drop.

If you have any five year-old BC wines in your collection, now is the time to start planning special meals and popping those corks.

December 25, 2011

Tongue Stew with Côte-Rôtie

Tongue is probably not going to make a huge come-back in the kitchens of North America any time soon, and that is a real pity. We had some stewed tongue recently that changed our minds about this challenging cut of beef. The texture was incredible, so tender yet resilient, and a flavour like fine tenderloin. We decided to try making it ourselves.

One beef tongue, onions and parsley.

We simmered everything for about four or five hours and then chilled it in the fridge over night. The next day we gave it another simmer for about four hours.

After all that, the shape has hardly changed at all.

Removing the skin takes a lot of careful cutting so as not to lose any of the meat.

Shimeji are almost too cute to cook.

Another long, slow stew in demi-glace.

A fantastic winter meal, served with peas, polenta and cream. The wine was almost designed specifically for this meal: Domaine Jean-Michel Stephan, 2008 (a blend of Syrah and Viognier) from the Southern Rhône.

December 19, 2011

Community-Generated Christmas Decoration

The centre-piece for this year's Christmas dinner table:
Hard to see, but the whole platform is resting on a bed of pine branches and garlands of silver beads.

The houses are lit by a string of battery-powered LED Christmas lights. We poked holes in the foam-core base and pushed the bulbs through from below.

Some dry branches and a little spray-on snow really added to the effect.

We sent a copy of the plans to our dinner guests and asked them to make and bring their own house to add to the neighbourhood. Someone made two from red plaid paper, which added some lovely colour.

Feel like making your own? Download the printable version of the house plans here. It fits on a single piece of 8.5" x 11" (Letter) paper when printed at 100%. With a sharp craft blade, a metal-edged ruler and a couple of dabs with a glue stick, each house should only take about ten minutes.

December 17, 2011

Sakura Dinner and Wine

We were treated to an astounding meal at Sakura, a fine French restaurant at the New Otani hotel in Osaka.

A little cone of ikkura (roe) and a slab of foie gras sandwiched between two dark chocolate biscuits.

Scallops and octopus in a sea-water jelly.

This Meursault was fantastic; lemony and lightly oaked and a perfect pairing for the seafood.

Uni (sea urchin) roe with caviar and consommé.

Grilled lobster with bisque sauce.

Bacon on creamy pasta. Those are thick slices of fresh white truffle.

To refresh the palate, a little champagne sorbet.

There was a mind-boggling choice of Bordeaux to open with the main course  We went with the one on the right.

An unmistakeable colour.

Slow-roast lamb.
Breast of guinea-fowl and a huge piece of foie gras. Gamey, tender and incredibly delicious.

A selection of cheeses. The two wedges in the middle are Stilton, chosen specifically to go with the dessert wine.

The dessert wine was... well, it's actually very difficult to put into words. Let's just say that it wholeheartedly deserved its outstanding reputation.


December 12, 2011

Fruit in Japan is a Different Thing

Fruit is done differently in Japan. You can order a shipment of perfect pears, directly from the orchard. They arrive the next morning in a special, chilled delivery van.

Perfect, singly-wrapped specimens.

Cruncy, juicy, sweet and entirely blemish-free. Do not dare ask about the cost.

December 9, 2011

Birthday Wine: Foxtrot Pinot Noir

Some special food for a recent birthday:


Buying one of these outside of Thailand is always a gamble. Despite their thick skin, they bruise easily (see the brownish bits) and the bright yellow is a sign of doom:
Injury to outer skin results in percolation of bitter latex into the edible flesh, which makes the whole fruit bitter and inedible.
 We got to this one just in time. A good half of it was perfect: snowy white, membranous and thick with tropical flavour.

Not pictured: Passion fruit! We slurped up its aromatic, crunchy seeds so quickly we forgot to take a photo.

Dinner started with some fat scallops.

And continued with pork in a rich, cream sauce.

Served with the excellent Pinot Noir from Foxtrot from the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan.

Very much in demand, this Pinot is quickly coming to exemplify the Naramata terroir. Medium-bodied with classic cherry and slight earthy notes, it has a rich, supple finish reminiscent of the famous Burgundies. While not as acidic, it has amazing balance and well deserves its growing reputation.

December 5, 2011

Local Fauna

Spotted over the past few months:

Deer on the some stairs behind an apartment building.

Sea turtles locked into a sidewalk puddle of paint in Gastown.

This collection appeared, one at a time over a few weeks, in the rock garden outside our building. Every few days they are arranged differently; dinosaurs, squirrels, and one Kamen Rider figure, posing in his green boots.

We admit it: we added that last one. He seems to have been welcomed into the family.

December 1, 2011

Machiavelli Chianti Classico

We recently celebrated our anniversary by taking advantage of a change to our provincial wine laws: customers can now take their own bottle of wine to a restaurant.

We went to a favourite bistro nearby called Les Faux Bourgeois and took along a bottle of 1999 Chianti Classico that we bought at the winery about five years ago.

The winery is part of the Machiavelli farm, just outside Firenze. We dropped in to see the museum (not much beyond his old writing desk) and ended up tasting, and buying, some wine. We carried two bottles of the 99 back to Vancouver and drank one in October 2007.

We both had delicious grilled meat and the wine was fantastic; complex fruit and earthy flavours nicely balanced with high acidity. There was a corkage fee, naturally, but it was quite fun to open our own bottle at the table.

Google Street View offers a good look at the winery's front door:

View Larger Map

November 28, 2011

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

A favourite poem from highschool days that comes immediately to mind when a cold plum presses against my lips.

Summer plums from Sapo Bravo Farm in Lytton, BC.
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