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Tasting a tank sample of Meyer Family Vineyard’s 2011 Gewürztraminer

Winemakers use samples to gain insight into the development of their wine. For the public, a barrel tasting is a great way to learn and partake in some aspect of the winemaking process. Most importantly, barrel sampling is an exclusive and fun event. You may have the opportunity to try a barrel sample if you visit a winery, and many California wine festivals are now showcasing young wines from the barrel to the general public. If you are fortunate enough to take part in a barrel tasting, remember that you are not drinking the finished product, the sample is a small reflection of what you may expect from the bottle.

Winemakers use barrel samples to check the wine’s aging and progression. Wines are constantly evolving based on hundreds of variables. After taking a sample, a winemaker may use a number of techniques to adjust the levels of sugar and acidity, and even the oaking treatment.  Peachy Canyon‘s blog notes in ‘A Crash Course in Barrel Tasting’ another important aspect of barrel samples:

“One of the more interesting aspects of barrel tasting is the incredible variation. Most wines are the result of blending together multiple barrels (if not multiple barrels of multiple varietals). Although a winemaker selects barrels specifically, each barrel is slightly individual, and there will be some variance from one to the other (one barrel, for example, might give off more of a toast flavor than its neighbor), due to subtle differences in coopering, age, and conditioning.”

When analyzing a barrel sample you are still looking at the wine as you would if it was from the bottle, but there will be certain characteristics that will be attributed to its youth and what stage of aging it is in. As mentioned in Tastes Peachy, with red wines there may be significant gas on the nose with subtle fruit notes, and the palate will tend to be overwhelmed with tannins and acidity at first taste. The most important thing to remember is that a barrel samples are not a finished wine.

We were fortunate enough to receive a sample of the Meyer Family Vineyards‘ 2011 Gewürztraminer and sat down recently to really enjoy this unique experience.

The 2011 Gewürztraminer sample was showing very well.  White varietals such as Gewurtz are not usually intended to age as long as red wines, so the time between a sample and bottling is not as long. A portion of the grapes were whole bunched pressed, which can help with the drainage of the juice from the grapes.  The remaining grapes were left with their skins for a short period, this can help extract greater flavour as well.  However, too much contact with the skins in white varietals can cause unwanted astringency in the wine; we did not notice this in our sample.  Both batches of grapes were then gently pressed, rigorous press would again induce stronger astringency in the wine. All grapes were then combined for a long cool fermentation in stainless steel vat. The cooler temperature helps create a more light and fruity wine. The wine is then aged for several months sur lie, before bottling. We noticed some bready or yeasty characteristics that would have come from the process  of leaving the wine on its lees. This process is common in Chardonnays, adding a creaminess and also affecting the clarity.

We are excited to try the 2011 Gewürztraminer after bottling and compare our previous notes. We can expect a rich textured wine with strong acidity to balance the spice and savoury qualities.

If you haven’t been invited to try a barrel sample, you may have to schedule ahead of time to find a winery that will host you. There are many more unique opportunities where you can sample wines during your holidays. Travel to Wellness has a comprehensive list of Canadian wine and food festivals where you can taste many producers in one convenient location. Closer to home, the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival, May 4-5 in Banff, is a chance to indulge in rare wines and meet some of the producers. We are also approaching the tasting season of our neighbouring BC vineyards.  Visit BC Wine for easy reference to BC wine regions and mapped locations of wineries such as Meyer Family in Naramata.

 


Tasting Card Makeover

WineCollective‘s tasting cards got a makeover! If you receive a monthly package of great wine from us, you probably have noticed that the tasting cards have been revamped.  We hope you like them as much as we do!

The new design will be easier to store and catalogue. Also, the close-up image of the label will make it easier to find your new favourite bottle at the liquor store.  The online version of the notes have undergone a refresh as well.  We have made it easier to comment and rate the wines you receive, so make sure you tell us what you think!


Raise a Glass for World Malbec Day!

We rarely require a holiday or special event to justify opening a bottle of wine, but when an excuse so obvious presents itself, it would be a shame not to indulge! World Malbec Day celebrates all aspects of this wine, from its origin to the explosive popularity over the last decade. WineCollective is participating in this global event by sharing with you some of our favorite Malbecs.

Malbec originated in France, and was most commonly used as a blending grape. It was known as Cot Noir or Auxerrois in the region of Cahors where it was most usually found. In the 19th century, the émigres brought the varietal to Argentina where it flourished and became the flagship grape of the country and more specifically the Mendoza region. Argentine Malbec is more lush and velvety than it’s single varietal French cousin. The grape itself is actually quite different from those in France, smaller berries and tighter, smaller bunches.  The superiority of Malbec in Argentina is most commonly equated to the extreme elevation of vineyards compared to European producers.

Malbec as a component of a blend such as Château La Bastide’s 2008 Malbec, Merlot, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir, Syrah and can be as expressive of the grape as  a single varietal bottling. Marcello Pelleriti’s Reserve Malbec 2007 and CarinaE Malbec 2008 are reflective of the spice and richness of the Argentine grown grape. Visit WineSpectator for a list of French representations of Malbec and more insight into the Argentine, ‘new world’ take on the varietal.

Château La Bastide

Quite a bit of rusticness, notes of mushroom, forest floor and hay. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t fruit here. Lots of red currant and blackberries are present. We also picked out an intriguing “salted pretzel” smell, which combines salty minerality with touches of yeast. An extremely complex nose for this price point. -WineCollective Staff

Retail Price: $14.43

 

CarinaE

An exceptionally spicy wine, except that unlike most entry-level Malbecs, the spice here isn’t from heavy duty oak, it is from the terrior and the actual grapes. The spice, rather than being predominately pepper would be more like habanero or jalapeno, but less palate scorching. The fruit is juicy and pleasant. The tannins are present, well structured and rounded. A different take on a Malbec. -WineCollective Staff

Retail Price: $16.89

 

Marcelo Pelleriti

Easy to enjoy with tannins and intensity dialled down compared to some Malbec. Spice characteristics lead the palate with black pepper, clove, wood box, liquorice and slightly smoky, jammy berry fruits. -WineCollective Staff

Retail Price: $25.00

 

 


Congratulations Susan E. !

WineCollective would like to congratulate Susan E. on winning the March Indulgence package($148 value).  Susan was randomly selected after commenting and rating her WineCollective wines.

Thank-you to everyone who participated.  Remember, you can login to your account to view, rate and comment on all the wines you receive from WineCollective at any time.  We love your feedback, and truly appreciate your opinion!


Everything you need to know about the Calgary Wine Fest

Your first Winefest is never your last, that is why most attendees are seasoned veterans. Winefest is Calgary’s longest running wine festival, 2012 marks their 20th Anniversary.  We have compiled some valuable tips and event info for both the newbies and the more experienced.

You can find all essential information on the Winefest site regarding dates, tickets and parking. However,  @winejennifer helps the novice and experts alike by listing her top 11 tips for Winefest in “How To “Do” Wine Festivals”. #6 on the list, ‘Don’t wear white’ is crucial, and so is comfortable footwear!  Also, #10 “Don’t rinse your glass with water”, this is the most repeated offense I witness at wine tastings.  Make sure you are rinsing with a splash of wine instead. Whether you are industry or amateur, everyone likes finding their new favourite vino.  Instead of trying to balance a pencil, notebook and glass to take notes, snap a photo of the with your phone and give it a quick rating.

The most important thing to remember is that Winefest is a social event, don’t be too focused on the details of each wine. Look for wines you have never tried, then research them after the event.  You can find where your favourites are sold at Liquorconnect.com.  This way you can relax and not be rushed to learn everything about every wine.

This year Winefest is featuring 230 different wines from 15 regions, as well as a delicious tapas menu. From what I have heard of the Edmonton Winefest last weekend, you won’t be disappointed by the selection! You can check out the list of producers and the menu on the Winefest site.  If you are already a WineCollective member, you will recognize our favourites on the list.  Here are some wines to look out for!

Spy Valley Pinot Noir

Sip this with the Miniature Apple and Brie Grilled Sandwich. This wine delivers big time Pinot Noir blueberries and strawberries up front. There are good levels of vibrant acidity which make it food friendly but is also great on its own. The tannins have a softness and approachability which are rounded out by its medium length finish

Road 13 Jackpot Syrah

This wine is ideal with 92% Syrah and 8% Viognier which gives the wine some fruit to go along with the savory Syrah core. Try this meaty Syrah with Bulgogi Pork on toasted Baguette.

If you haven’t already bought your tickets, there are only ones left for Saturday afternoon 2-5.


Rate & Review = Reward

WineCollective wants to reward you for your thoughts, tell us what you think about the wine you have received and win more wine!

Is there a wine that you tried and want to find more? Do you enjoy Okanagan wines over Napa? Do you prefer a bold Shiraz or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc? Are you all about new and exotic blends and varietals, or stick to your tried and true? We want to know!

  • Log into your WineCollective account (set a new password if you don’t already have one)
  • Select “Your Wines”, and you will see all of the wines you have received from WineCollective
  • Click on a wine, rate & review!

For the month of February, each time you rate & review a wine (not just February wines, any and every wine you have received),we will enter your name to win a one-month Indulgence package which is a $148 value!

There is no limit to the number of times you can rate or review, so boost your chances to win by rating every wine! A winner will be selected and notified on March 1, 2012!


The best lasagna I’ve ever eaten!

I rarely follow a recipe when I cook, it’s a testament to what my mother has taught me in the kitchen; to be resourceful and creative!  I like to read cook books, look up recipes online (WineAccess has recipes and pairings), and then combine all the A-list ideas into my own creation.

This is how I made the best lasagna I have ever eaten! (Yes, I am bragging a little)  Everyone knows how to make a standard lasagna, and it is fairly easy to spice-up and re-invent.  Here is what I did to create the best lasagna EVER:

  • After the pasta has been boiled, rinsed in cold water and patted dry; toss in olive oil
  • Use half ground beef and half Italian sausage (removed from casing) for the meat-tomato sauce layer
  • Blend 2 chipotle peppers with some adobo sauce and add to the tomato sauce mixture (and 1 cup of red wine)
  • I made one layer of mushrooms in a heavy cream sauce with loads of garlic (and 1/4 cup white wine)

The only negative to this recipe (and most lasagnas) is the amount of dishes; but after 45 min at 350, dishes were done and I was ready to eat!

You might be wondering what wine to pour with this caloric feast?  Lasagna is very friendly with wine, a versatile dish that will pair well with several varietals, from many regions and all for different reasons.  A simple pairing formula to follow: your wine should either compare or contrast to your meal’s weight, texture, or flavour.  Here are a few favourites from the WineCollective archive,  that I think are matches made in lasagna heaven.

 

Wrongo-dongo

Wrong Dongo 2010

Varietal: Monastrell
Region: Jumilla, Spain
Approximate Price: $21

The spice from the Italian sausage and chipotles are paired well with the peppery nature of Shiraz or boldness of a Spanish Monastrell.

“There is some signature Spanish earthiness and spice on the mid-palate before the wine ends on some fairly rounded tannins.  This wine is not a casual sipper, it is a huge food wine. Pair with BBQ, big red meat or something equally hearty such as pasta in a tomato sauce.” -WineCollective Staff

 

Alias---chardonnay

Alias Chardonnay 2009

Varietal: Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc
Region: California
Approximate Price: $18

Match the creamy texture and richness of the cheese and garlic cream sauce with a slightly oaked and acidic Chardonnay.

“… surprisingly crisp with a very good acidity profile. The oak and vanilla notes are there but take a backseat to lemon or grapefruit citrus notes, which are complimented by stone fruit such as apricot and perhaps nectarine.” -WineCollective Staff

 

Elu

St. Supery Elu Meritage 2006

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot
Region: Napa Valley, California
Approximate Price: $71

The weight fullness of pasta won’t be overshadowed by an equally big wine like a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Silky tannins, great, cleansing acids, and a great sense of balance from start to finish.”-Tom Firth, Wine Access National Tasting Panel Member @cowtownwine

 

Galterra---2007

Castello Sonnino Galterra 2007

Varietal: Sangiovese, Merlot
Region: Tuscany
Approximate Price: $31.59

However, when in doubt, go Italian! The high acidity of the tomato sauce pairs best with a well-balanced, acidic Sangiovese or Chianti.

“Galterra is made from a blend of 65% Sangiovese and 35% Merlot, to give an intense dark ruby-coloured wine with a spicy nose and hints of licorice and black pepper… a very versatile wine to pair with food and complements almost anything with tomato-based sauces, red wine sauces, ratatouille, mushrooms and bell peppers, eggplant dishes, spicy sausages such as pepperoni pizza…” –Linda Garson, Calgary Wine Examiner

 

All wines shown can be found at Willow Park Wines & Spirits!

 

 


Gift Ideas Galore

There are four days left until Christmas, and if you are like most people, you are stressing over what to buy the hardest people on your list, or your entire list!  Luckily WineCollective has some friends that continually impress us with their ability to find unique gift giving and holiday entertaining ideas.

We may be a little biased, but we think a WineCollective Holiday Package is the perfect gift to give and receive!  You can purchase 2, 3, or 6 months of our carefully curated selections for the wine lover in your life, up until December 31st (if you need a last minute/belated gift).  When you think that this couldn’t get any better, each Holiday Package comes with a year’s subscription to Wine Access magazine!

Toque Girls recently posted an interview with Shelley Boettcher, executive editor of Wine Access, giving her top toasting picks for the Holidays in “A Drink List for the Holidays“.  The WineCollective staff are particularly fond of the Waterbrook Melange Noir.

Waterbrook---melange

Tom Firth of Wine Access suggests a diversion from grapes to grains, Samichlaus beer.  Yes, he does mention that it sounds like “Santa Claus”, that is because it means Santa Claus in Austrian.  This post has inspired the perfect gift for my dad’s stocking; a gift box set of Samichlaus is available at Willow Park.

Avenue Magazine gives us lists of ideas for everyone on our lists: kids, dads, the women in your life, and foodies.  Our favourite list, considering mall crowds are frightening, is their “No Fuss Online Gift Ideas“, and yes, we are on it!

If you are looking for something special for a lady, I recommend Sister’s Home boutique in Bridgeland.

They have the most amazing assortment of jewellery, bags, accessories and unique wardrobe enhancers.  You can contact them to plan your own shopping party.  Wine, friends and shopping = a great girls night to kick of the New Year!

 


Tales of Wirra Wirra

I had the pleasure of enjoying a tasting of Wirra Wirra wines at Willow Park about a month ago; my first sit-down, communal type of tasting, and it was thoroughly enjoyable!  Willow Park provided a buffet of hors d’oeuvres: steak on crostini, assortment of cheese and crackers, and savory canapés. I was glad I came hungry, everything was delicious.

Besides the tasty eats, and the welcoming glass of Mrs. Wigley Grenache Rose, the engaging table talk with fellow tasters was open and light, there were a lot more laughs than expected!

The wines were all enjoyed, from the Scrubby Rise Sauv Blanc to the crowd pleasing Church Block Cab blend.  The Dead Ringer Cabernet and RSW Shiraz were great opportunity to try something out of my price range of everyday wine (around $50 a bottle).  Of all wines tasted, my favorite was the Scrubby Rise Shiraz, featured this month in WineCollective.  On my second tasting of Scrubby Rise, it was paired with a juicy @alleyburger; we highly recommend the combination!

Wine and food aside, by far the best part of the evening was the stories; our host, straight from Wirra Wirra, did not have a shortage of quirky tales that reinforce the whimsical and humorous nature of the wines and those who produce them.  The first pour of the evening, a Grenache Rose named after an exceptionally fortunate feline, Mrs. Wrigley, who had taken permanent residence in the Wirra cellars and dined on left over cheese from the winery’s tasting room.

Robert Strangeway Wigley, the original founder of Wirra Wirra in 1894, and well know eccentric, is the topic of many Wirra tales.  He was sent to Mclaren Vale as his family’s means to containing him and his pranks from the eyes of Adelaide’s society.  A joy ride through the town on a stolen pie cart was not his family’s idea of proper behaviour.

The original cellar and homestead of Wirra Wirra.

 

Greg Trott and cousin Roger revived Robert Wigley’s vision in 1969, carrying on with the same unique and fun-loving personality of the vineyard.  The catapult designed and founded in Greg Trott’s imagination, with the sole purpose of flinging wine from Wirra Wirra onto neighbouring vineyards in hopes that they would then devise a catapult of their own and return the favour; is now mostly being used with watermelons and not wine.  We were further informed of Mr. Trott’s adventures, disappearing without notice to attend a cricket match; his minders had put a full page “missing person” ad hoping someone would contact them with his whereabouts; he was found.

Greg Trott

Woodhenge Shiraz to the 12th Man Chardonnay, numerous bottles of Wirra wine are named after the mis-adventures and iconic structures found at Wirra in Mclaren Vale.  They are worthy of a read, and a few laughs.


M. Chapoutier

While doing some background research on our wines featured in October, I stumbled across an article by Linda Garson in the Calgary Wine Examiner.  She lists the French producer M.Chapoutier as #7 on her list of “wines that give back”.  Chapoutier is donating a percentage of the sales of their Bellerouche to the Alberta Guide Dog Services during October.  Since 1996, Chapoutier has used braille on their labels in respect for Maurice Manier, family member and vineyard owner that had lost his sight as a child.

While this month we are not featuring the 2009 Chapoutier Belleruche Blanc or Rouge, we are delivering Chapoutier’s  Les Vignes de Bila-Haut (blend of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah).  Tom Firth’s review of Bila-Haut for the WineCollective community notes, “Savoury chocolate, rich berry fruits of raspberry and cherry, and a pleasing earthy bitterness which appears on the mid palate.” It won great reviews throughout the WineCollective team, and we are proud to be introducing it to our members.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

Varietal: Carignan, Grenache, Syrah
Region: Cotes du Rousillon-Villages
Vintage: 2009

Keeping in the spirit of all things to be thankful for, I am pleased to pass along further information on M. Chapoutier’s philanthropic endeavours.  A very engaging wine maker, who has coordinated numerous creative and successful fundraisers while doing what he know best, making beautiful wine!

In addition to using braille on their labels, Micheal Chapoutier has not only instilled the company’s core values of ‘Respect, Audacity and Generosity’ into their grapes, but also into their community.  Under the title ‘M.Chapoutier Wines and Health Association”, the organization has raised money for the French Blood Transfusion Organization through auctioning wines from various prestigious houses, to funding a play “Jump out of Bed” performed by volunteers in the Medical community.  There is also the “Harvests of Hearts” where volunteers pick grapes, and for every ton, the producer donates the workers’ “pay” to their charitable organization.  Chapoutier’s social efforts, wine, love of food and all around success has made him the subject of a French film “Fac & Spera“, the family motto of “do and hope”.

It is refreshing when you discover the passion and generosity of the people behind the products you purchase and the wines you love to drink.