Christmas White, Big Juicy Red, & a Rich Opulent Sherry: Wines for Every Palate!
Congratulations! We made it through the first snow fall of the year! Now as an extra special reward I have decided to coin up another blog. On the docket today I have two fantastic wines and a very special sherry. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Sandhill Small Lots Viognier 2011 – British Columbia, Canada ($31.99 / 750mL)
When it comes to higher-end wine products, it’s not uncommon to find that most people do not consider Canada to be a big contender for producing fine wine. With that in mind, I am going to try to shatter that perception and bring to light some of the magical things we have been growing on vines here in our own native soil. Sandhill winery in the Okanagan has what they call the Small Lots Program. This is a program that was instituted to create something truly unique and bring some incredibly cool things to the market. The grapes can come from small select pickings that show exceptional character or a specific vineyard block where they are trying new agricultural techniques. The idea is to bottle a wine that is special and can only be found here. Their Small Lots Program has the honor of being the only vineyard in Canada to grow the Italian varietals Barbera and Sangiovese.
From this Small Lots Program, Sandhill has produced one of the best white wines I have ever had the pleasure to try. Their 2011 Viognier comes from the Osprey Ridge Vineyard, a warmer growing site in the Okanagan. Viognier requires a bit more heat to reach full ripeness and it finds a lovely home in this vineyard, resulting in an intensely aromatic wine with notes of peaches and apricots. Another striking quality about this bottle is the marvelous floral character that comes out on the nose, like a fresh bouquet of white flowers. The final product is a fuller-bodied white wine with a perfect, crisp finish of acidity to back up the richer body. If you’re looking for something special to have this Christmas I recommend pairing this with your upcoming holiday dinner.
Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz 2011 – McLaren Vale, Australia ($29.99 / 750mL)
Mollydooker is an endearing Australian term to refer to a left-handed person. The brainchild of Sparky and Sarah Marquis, the Mollydooker wines have a very strong scientific background. The husband and wife team work together with Leigh, Sparky’s father, who is an engineer by trade and has established his own successful award-winning vineyards in Tasmania. The main goal of the winery is to produce incredibly rich, intense, fruit forward wines. This all starts in the vineyard, where very strict and specific watering and pruning cycles are maintained in order to make incredibly ripe grapes. This ripeness is transferred to the wine, which produces that incredibly rich and intense flavor profile.
Once the grapes are picked and pressed, the wine must fulfill another criterion before it is bottled and labeled. The Marquis Fruit Weight is a system set up by Sparky Marquis that measures how much of a fruit’s “weight” is detected on the palate before the character of the wine comes out. It is a percentile, starting at the tip of the tongue and making its way to the back. A quick example, the Boxer Shiraz which I will gush about in a second has a fruit weight of 65 – 70%. This means that in order for the juice to qualify for The Boxer, it must cover at least 65% of the palate with the ‘velvet glove’ sensation of fruit that sits on your tongue.
With all the technical jargon out of the way, let me tell you about The Boxer. Opulent, unctuous, and rich; just a few descriptors I can throw at this wine. Coming in at a heady 16% alcohol, you know this wine is going to be big and flattering. It is intensely flavored and incredibly new-world in composition. When pairing with food make sure flavours of the dish are just as intense as the wine or this wine will completely overshadow the meal. Pair with a thick cut steak on the grill or fall of the bone ribs drenched in a sweet/spicy BBQ sauce! There is so much fruit and flavor; it’s hard to believe they fit it all into the one bottle!
One more thing to mention about Mollydooker, is how they preserve their wine. Rather than using added sulphites, they add a touch of nitrogen to every bottle. While this reduces allergic reactions and makes the wine open to more consumers, nitrogen can compress the flavors of the wine. What they recommend is to do the “Mollydooker Shake” before enjoying the wine – a rather humorous video of Sarah Marquis boogying with a bottle of wine is available for instruction purposes. By pouring a half-glass of wine, resealing the bottle, turning it upside down and giving it a shake, you release the nitrogen which allows those flavors to come back in full.
Gonzales Byass Noe 30 Year Solera Sherry – Jerez, Spain ($31.99 / 375mL)
When I was younger, I always assumed sherry was a beverage that my grandparents drank every night to help with digestion. I had never really considered it a beverage that someone my age could enjoy-that is until I met Antonio Flores. We were graced with a visit by Antonio a few months ago, marking his first visit to Canada. Antonio is the head winemaker at the Gonzalez Byass Winery in Jerez, and the mastermind behind all the gorgeous wines that come from the facility. During his visit, I was introduced to numerous different styles of Sherry; from the dry Fino Tio Pepe to the succulent and sweet Nutty Solera. The one that tugged at my heart strings was the very last in the line-up, a 30 year old Solera.
Solera is an aging process by which you blend fractional amounts of product of varying ages, with the average age increasing gradually as the process continues over many years. In the case of the Noe sherry, each year new barrels of Pedro Ximenez (the grape varietal used to create the wine) is fermented and barreled. Every few years, they take about twenty percent of the new barrel and add it to the last harvest. That same barrel has had twenty percent of its wine removed and added to the year before it. The process continues like that for many years until you have the final barrel, a blend of numerous different ages leading up to one glorious finish. Antonio educated the staff here at Everything Wine and More on this process, and spoke very passionately about his wines. An absolutely charming man, it was a real treasure to meet someone like him. Through him you can really tell the passion that goes into making great wines and how each individual wine maker has their own personal flare to bring to every single bottle.
To recap, the Noe, now aged for 30 years via the Solera system is ready for the consumer! What struck me first was the colour. The wine is dark auburn, edging onto black. It looks and pours like warm molasses. The smell is intense and powerful, jammed full of sweet fig jam, honey, and fruit preserves, brown sugar, chocolate and a nice bit of cedar smoke. Once the sherry hits the tongue, you are introduced to a world of flavours. It is delightfully sweet, like milk chocolate, and it coats your tongue with a velvety grasp. The flavour never seems to leave your mouth, an everlasting testament to the glory of the wine. Rich, supple and delectable, the palate opens up to coffee, sweet oak vanillin, chocolate, molasses, figs, and dried fruit. There is so much character packed into this tiny little 375mL bottle and it absolutely blew me away. This was a real eye-opener for me and let me know just how amazing sherry can be as a product. This would pair great with nice, rich chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Better yet, serve it slightly chilled on its own as the dessert.
On December 16th I will be teaching a second class! If you enjoyed my90+ Point wines class, then you will love this. I will be hosting a single blind tasting where we will compare and contrast old world and new world wine styles. This is a bit of a special class as it is our second Vintage Classroom Event, which means it features wines all found from our vintage room. The best part? Tickets are only $20 dollars! Come visit our store in Sherwood Park at 25-100 Broadview Drive or call 780-417-3356 to get your tickets now.
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