Like many people, I previously never truly understood saké. I knew the basics, but not enough to really appreciate it. Unless I went to a Japanese restaurant, I would not expect to see saké on the menu. Perhaps this is where the ignorance came from. I only expected to see saké at a Japanese restaurant, which is like saying French wine should be exclusive to French food. Why can’t saké go with Italian food? We’ve accepted that wine pairs well with sushi, so why not saké with non-Japanese dishes. To come up with some good saké pairings, let’s first discuss what saké is and how it’s made.
Mother’s Day is coming up quickly this year, and this is the year that we beat the Italians at the game they know best, showing their Mammas how much they adore them. One in three Italian men are reported to see their mothers on a daily basis, over two-thirds of millenial Italian males still live at home, and Mother’s Day in Italy, or “La Festa Della Mamma”, is a huge event, a day for celebrating with family and indulging in food, and a few too many cocktails. Now you may not be ready to move back in with your parents or maybe you can’t afford to take the women in your life all the way to a little villa in Italy to celebrate the big day, but we have you covered.
In honour of Queen Victoria’s 199th birthday, we thought we’d suggest a few of her favourite sips for any long weekend soirees you might participate in. After a little research it became quite clear that Queen Victoria was made of much stronger stuff than most of us and as a result, recommending some of her favoured recipes ranges from somewhat questionable to entirely illegal.
We are keeping the spring theme alive with this delicious Pisco based cocktail supplied to us by our friend Christopher Cho! Chris is a partner in several of Saskatchewan’s top food and drink spots including Ayden Kitchen, Sticks & Stones, Little Grouse and forthcoming Avenue restaurant. Chris is also the brains behind Traditional Bitters, a great line of cocktail bitters produced out of Saskatoon.
Welcome to our May edition of Vine Arts Wine Club! This month we have a lineup on the esoteric side. There are some under the radar grape varieties, some lesser known wine regions, and even wine from Mexico. Enjoy!
2016 Monte Xanic Vina Kristel Sauvignon Blanc - Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico - $20.50
Yes indeed, Mexico makes wine. The Spanish introduced the grape vine in the 16th century, the very first in the America’s. Spanish Conquistadors and Jesuit Missionaries carried the vine with them as they spread across the land. Indigenous varieties did not take well to winemaking, so European varietals were imported. Today around 2,500 hectares of vineyards are planted. Three main wine growing regions exist. The North includes the states of Baja and Sonora. This area accounts for 85% of all Mexican wine production. La Laguna, includes the states of Coahuila and Durango. This is the oldest winemaking region in Mexico. The Center includes the states of Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Querétaro. In general Mexico’s wine regions enjoy warm weather, but there are many different microclimates producing a range of wine styles.
The wine industry in the state of Baja is booming! Many of the wineries here are less than 30 years old, family run, and small in scale. The vineyards thrive with warm, sunny days and cool, fog enveloped nights. This ideal wine region is just over and hours drive from the border town of Tijuana. The still rustic quality of the area keeps the region under many a tourists radar. Grapes grown are hugely diverse. You are as likely to come across Tempranillo or Nebbiolo, as you’re to find Cabernet Sauvignon. Generally the red wines of the region are robust and ripe. White varieties are equally varied, with grapes like Fiano rubbing shoulders with Chasselas. In the case of the Monte Xanic Vina Kristel, we have a 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the “Napa Valley of Mexico”, Valle de Guadalupe. This wine is entirely fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.
Monte Xanic was founded by 5 friends (Hans, Ricardo, Eric, Manuel and Tomás) in 1987. Located 25 km from the coast, the estate benefits from a unique Mediterranean microclimate. The first wines produced at the winery, a Chenin Colombard and a Cabernet Sauvignon, came from the 1988 vintage. Monte Xanic has grown to be a reference for high quality Mexican wine, with four different labels: Gran Ricardo, Ediciones Limitadas, Monte Xanic and Calixa. Anybody thinking that this is a humble operation should think again, as the winery is as impressive as any winery in California. Total wine production remains only 50,000 cases made each year.
Tasting this wine blind, you would be very hard pressed to say it’s from Mexico. It shows all the classic characteristics of a New World Sauvignon Blanc. Silvery in color, on the nose and palate citric fruits dominate with crunchy acidity and minerality. A touch of grassiness is reminiscent of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. It’s the perfect wine to serve with a fresh salad
2015 Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Blanc - Vin de France, France - $18.00
The wine growing region of Ventoux, previously known as Côtes du Ventoux, is located 40 km north of the southeastern French city of Avignon. The region takes its name from Mont Ventoux, the “Giant of Provence” that towers over the fertile vines of the Rhône. Cycling fans will know this 2,000 meter high mountain as the scene for one of the most most grueling stages of the Tour de France. Like exhausted participants of the Tour, the vineyards of Ventoux creep up the western slopes of the mountain. There is a wildness to the terrain that’s well paired with a local sense of rebelliousness. It can come as a surprise that this area actually used to struggle ripening grapes, but warming temperatures have brought regularly successful harvests.
The wines of Ventoux are in many ways similar to the wines of neighbouring Côtes du Rhône. The classic Rhône red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre is often employed. This style of wine is typically fruit forward and meant for early consumption. A new development has been the growth of so called “Super-Rhône” wines, that disregard tradition in favour of more modern styles and grapes from outside of the region. Red wine production far outweighs white wines. The most common varietals for white wines are Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc. Although Viognier typically plays a supporting role, it makes up 70% of the Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Blanc. The remaining 30% of the blend is split equally between Roussanne and Clairette. As there is more than 50% Viognier in the blend, which is restricted in the appellation rules, this wine cannot actually be labelled as Ventoux. As such it carries the designation of Vin de France. Fermentation and elevage occur entirely in stainless steel tanks.
Château Pesquie, one of the leading estates in Ventoux, has been owned by the Chaudière family since the early 1970s. The stunning château itself dates back to the 1750’s. The first wines from the estate first appeared in 1989. Today brothers Fred and Alex Chaudière manage the estates 100 hectares of vineyards, adhering to organic principles. Everything in the vineyard is done by hand, including manually turning the soil and harvesting the fruit. The terroir of the estate consists of rocky limestone clay, red clay and loamy gray clay. Vines planted to 10 different varieties (20-80 years old), ripen evenly and slowly thanks to a cool micro-climate.
The Terrasses Blanc is your perfect Spring weather aperitif wine. Silvery in color, it shows floral notes of citrus blossom and fresh squeezed lime. A crispy palate is punctuated with flavours of white peach, mango, and lemon. Well paired with a traditional Provençal mussel bouillabaisse.
2016 Quentin Jeannot Bourgogne Rouge - Burgundy, France - $30.00
Burgundy’s clout transcends its small footprint. 30,000 hectares in size, every square inch of land is coveted. Every detail of the landscape has been studied, dissected, and scrutinized for hundreds of years. Cisterian monks were among the first to categorize Burgundy’s landscape. The main departments are Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. The continental climate is thoroughly unpredictable, with generally hot summers and cold winters. Subject to fickle conditions, the best vineyards are located on midlopes with sunny southeastern exposures. The concept of “terroir”, the uniqueness of place, runs deep through the Burgundian winemakers veins.
Burgundy is the spiritual home of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. “Burghounds” will argue that there are no better examples to be found anywhere in the world. Where things tend to get confusing is trying to understand the regions elaborate classification system. In this system you have Regional Wines, Village Wines, Premier Cru Wines, and Grand Cru Wines. To further complicate things, Napoleonic inheritance laws subdivide already small vineyard holdings. A grape grower may own a single row of vines in one village, and another row in the neighbouring village. On top of this we can throw in drastic vintage variations for good measure. Yeah, you can see why Burgundy inspires both devotion and frustration.
The Quentin Jeannot Bourgogne Rouge is a Regional Wine. A Bourgogne Rouge can be made from grapes sourced anywhere in Burgundy. Quentin makes wine from vineyard holdings in the Côte Chalonnaise appellation of Maranges. The Pinot Noir grapes are hand harvested from 50 year old vines planted on limestone soil. Once in the cellar the clusters are destemmed and fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then transferred to barrels for malolactic fermentation and 12 months elevage. Only 6000 bottles of this wine were made in 2016.
Quentin Jeannot is a young winemaker who has been working alongside his parents at the family domaine in the village of Saint-Sernin-du-Plain. Valérie and Philippe Jeannot established their estate in 1995. At the time living elsewhere, they were finally able to move fulltime to the area in 1999. They purchased their first vines that same year. Today they have plots of vineyards in 10 different appellations, including the prestigious villages of Santenay and Pommard.
There’s a trend in Burgundy towards fermenting using whole clusters, keeping the stems for structure and character. These wines are often described as “traditional”. This wine is more flirtatious and youthful. Fermenting without stems in tank preserves bright notes of cherry and rose. A touch of bâtonnage (lees stirring) lends some volume to the body, extracting additional flavour and intensity. Elevage in barrel adds a light touch of clove. This is pretty Pinot. Serve slightly cooler with a simple duck terrine and crunchy baguette.
2016 Cembra Cantina di Montagna Schiava - Trentino, Italy - $22.00
Trentino is an autonomous wine region located in northern Italy. Until the Treaty of Saint-Germain in 1919, this province was officially part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That is why even to this day Trentino doesn’t strike visitors as typically Italian. The Brenner Pass, a mountain corridor through the Alps, still makes this region Italy’s connection with northern Europe. Geographically and climatically, it is an alpine region. Although neighbouring Alto Adige is even 500 ft higher, Trentino is still very much influenced by the peaks of the Dolomites. A rain shadow shields the valleys, and warm breezes keep everything warm and dry. Surprising for an alpine area, the capital of Trento is actually one of the countries warmest cities during the summer.
Almost 75% of the wine produced in Trentino qualifies for DOC status (Italy’s designation for higher quality wines). This percentage is higher than almost anywhere else in Italy. Of the 20 approved varietals for the area, only three are indigenous: Nosiola, Teroldego Rotaliano and Marzemino. The weather conditions favour white varietals, which account for over 60% of all plantings. The most popular white varietal is Chardonnay, and Merlot the most popular red. For this months wine club we have sourced a red wine made from the lesser known Schiava grape. Also referred to as Vernatsch, or Trollinger in Germany, plantings in Trentino are unfortunately dwindling. The grapes for this wine come from hand harvested terraced vineyards in the Valle di Cembra. A youthful style, it is fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel and fiberglass reinforced tanks.
At 700 meter above sea level, Cembra Cantina di Montagna is the highest winery in Trentino. Established in 1952 by a few growers with small plots of vines, today this cooperative winery counts a total of 400 members. With such a diverse range of vineyard sites, the winery makes wines from more than 10 different varietals. Terraced plantings, on steep slopes, climb to over 872 meters above sea level. As the wineries oenologist explains, “These slopes can’t be tamed… Here we must work alongside nature.” Mechanical harvesting is impossible, so everything is done by hand. At harvest time, it’s all hands on deck. In little known areas like the Cembra Valley, this type of cooperation is insuring a lasting future.
You’ll be hard pressed to stop at one glass of Schiava. It is just so crushable! Light in color and body, it’s just a few notches above being a rosé. The nose and palate of this wine is all strawberry and cotton candy. That’s correct, cotton candy. A dash of tannin and good acidity, give this wine some pep in its step. Serve this elegant wine with a slight chill.
2014 Reynolds Wine Growers Carlos Reynolds Red - Alentejano, Portugal - $23.50
The wine region of Alentejo covers an entire one third of Portugal. Embodying much of the southern part of the country, it is composed of 8 subregions. Much of the landscape is gently rolling hills and plains. Only near the border with Spain do mountains appear. For a region with 170 kilometers of sandy beaches, Alentejo is known to few outside travellers. The interior is less influenced by the Atlantic, enjoying hot summers and chilly winters. In addition to growing grapes, this is Portugal’s “bread basket”, producing much of the countries wheat and olives.
Alentejo is Portugal’s “New World” wine region. A sparsely populated part of the country, vineyards holdings are typically owned by large estates. Traditional wineries, or “herdades” as they’re called, lean towards earthy and herbaceous styles. Modern wineries, in contrast, produce wines that are lush and oh so easy to drink. These plush wines are often compared with Australian Shirazes or California red blends. Given this duality of wine styles, it’s appropriate that the region endorses both local and international grape varieties. Aragonez (what the Spanish call Tempranillo) is the dominant local red variety. Although French varieties like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon have proven successful, it’s the inky Alicante Bouschet that has really caught on. This robust varietal does particularly well in hot growing conditions. With the Carlos Reynolds Red we get a blend of grapes: 40% Alicante Bouschet, 40% Trincadeira, and 20% Syrah. The grapes are harvested at night when temperatures cool down, and are sorted by variety before entering the winery. Once destemmed, the grapes are dropped into Seguin Moreau French oak vats for fermentation. After a long period of maceration, the wines are blended and aged one year in wooden vats. This is followed by yet another year of ageing in bottle prior to release.
The Reynolds family history in Portugal is an interesting one. Thomas Reynolds was an English merchant mariner who settled in Porto in 1820. Like other Englishman at the time, he was drawn to the growing Porto wine industry (some of the most famous names in Port are still English). He and his two sons would establish a trade network with their shop back in London. Thomas would eventually relocate first to Spain, and then to New Zealand. His second son Robert would stay in Portugal, expanding the family business. It was Robert who relocated the Reynolds family to Alentejo. Subsequent generations would firmly root the Reynolds name in the region. The 200 hectare estate (40 hectares of vineyards) of Figueira de Cima is still managed by Thomas’s descendants. The winery produces three groups of wines, named after the last three generations of the family: Gloria Reynolds, Julian Reynolds and Carlos Reynolds.
This red resides in the “modern” camp of Alentejo wine styles. Full bodied, it’s packed with dark blue/black berry fruit flavours. The round palate finishes off with a smooth, slightly smoky finish. Health gurus may be interested to know that Alicante Bouschet has both deep red skins and red flesh, giving high amounts of antioxidants. So it’s tasty and healthy. Score.
2015 Cien y Pico Doble Pasta Garnacha Tintorera - Manchuela, Spain - $27.00
The Meseta Central is the roof of Spain, a high central plateau of seemingly endless flatland. It is Spain’s “Big Sky Country”. With Madrid at its center, it extends over 81,000 square miles. It is home to some of the oldest geology in the Iberian Peninsula. Encircled by mountains, it’s red-brown soils bake under the intense summer sun. In the wine growing region of La Mancha drought may be an omnipresent threat, but vines benefit from 3,000 hours of sunlight per year. The largest continuous vine-growing area in the world, it produces vast amounts of wine, much of it very basic. In part because of La Mancha’s reputation for bulk-wine, the fringe area of Manchuela decided to split off and create its own appellation in 1982. Located inland from Valencia, it’s vineyards are mostly planted at an altitude of 600 – 700 meters above sea level. Some vineyards go as high as 1000 meters.
One reason that Manchuela growers felt confident enough to create their own appellation, was their extensive plantings of old-vine Bobal. A dark-skinned variety indigenous to southeastern Spain, it’s resistance to drought makes it the perfect grape for the Mesetas arid climate. It’s name derives from the latin word bovale, meaning bull. Other main red varieties grown include Cencibel (Tempranillo), Monastrell, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The region also makes a distinctive style of wine called Doble Pasta. With this style, a wine is macerated and fermented with twice the normal amount of grape skins and pulp, to obtain high extract, colour and tannin. With the Cien y Pico Doble Pasta, Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) grapes are fermented over additional grape skins and pulp in small open vats for 10 days. 20% of this wine will then be aged for 19 months in Radoux oak barrels.
Cien y Pico is something of an international affair. It’s four winemakers (Luis Juminez Garcia, Nicola Tuccci, Elena Golakova Brooks and Zar Brooks) hail from the countries of Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Australia. Between them, they have worked as consultant winemakers all over the world. The first vintage was released in 2010. Their winery, based in the heart of the region in the village of Mahora, produces wines mainly from Garnacha Tintorera, plus Bobal and Syrah. The name Cien y Pico, meaning “Hundred & Something”, was a reference to the exceptionally old vines of Garnacha Tintorera planted in Manchuela. These gnarly old vines that appear to claw out of the arid soil and receive just 300mm of rain a year, produce tiny amounts of intense grapes that make intense wines. This exciting new winery is proving yet again that Spain is a wine producing country to be reckoned with.
This wine demands attention. Deeply coloured, it's packed with flavours of blackberry and plum, with a generous mouthfeel. Overflowing with richness, it has a pleasant roundness and subtly in its tannins. Very moreish. Certainly a fine candidate for any BBQ, but it would be next-level delicious with a plate Hong Shao Rou (Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly).
- Robyn Bursey
Saison (French for “season”) is a category of beer all on its own, and not a new one at that!
Saisons classify as an ale in terms of brewing method - they are warm-fermented with top-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae if ya wanna get really technical), and as far as anyone knows, originally hail from a Francophone area of Belgium called Wallonia.
Traditionally (read: prior to modern refrigeration), saisons were brewed like most beers at the time: between November and March, when the outdoor temperature was cool enough that the beer would not spoil in production and could be cool-stored for consumption in the warmer months. The story goes that saisons, otherwise known as “farmhouse ales”, were brewed in the area’s rural farmhouses during the winter so the farm hands and labourers had something to keep them refreshed during the long, hot summer months of work.
Today, now that the brewer is no longer confined by nature’s ambient temperature, we are blessed with saisons lining the fluorescently-lit coolers and tap systems of our favourite beer-providers all year long. The offerings range from imperial takes on the style: big, boozy, and packed with spicy, grainy flavours; to light, fresh “table beer” versions that are bright and zesty, incredibly dry and taste of fresh lemon oil and cracked black pepper. There are even totally different takes on the style, like saison noir: brewed with dark, roasted malts, or saisons inoculated with wild yeasts like Brettanomyces, resulting in tart, funky flavours.
With all the creativity on today’s craft beer boom, one thing is for sure; whether fresh or funky, bold or toasty, saisons are here to stay!
Stop by either location to peruse our selection of saisons and to get acquainted with the style.
- Christine McFarlane and Klaire McCallum
Spring is all about shedding off the layers of winter and emerging to greet new experience and opportunities. In the spirit of this, here are five suggestions for maverick wines to help you break out of your vinous cocoon and open your wine wings wide (or just crush rosé, because that works too!).
Paltrinieri “Radice” Sparkling Rose - Emilia-Romagna, Italy - $28
Lambrusco has made a huge comeback this year, and this is one of our absolute favourites. While those seeking out Lambrusco typically think of a deep red sparkling wine, the Radice goes back to Lambrusco’s centuries old radice, or roots, and is a much lighter, more primal style. The Romans were the first to make Lambrusco, calling it Labrusca, (which essentially means wild) because of the more unruly production techniques used, the uncultivated vines and the wines wild, rustic flavour. The Radice is made with a grape called Lambrusco di Sorbara, using the old-school production method now known as method ancestral (or Petillant Naturel in France). This salmon-hued sparkler explodes with zippy acidity, fresh red berries, wild roses and grapefruit peel. The perfect wine for your next picnic, bottle cap and all!
Huber Zweigelt Rose - Traisental, Austria - $24
This dry rosé is made from a lesser-known grape variety called Zweigelt. Pronounced TSVYE-gelt, this relatively new varietal tastes and smells as exotic as it sounds. It’s spicy, floral notes help Zweigelt stand out from the crowd, while it’s fresh style makes it a good option for those of us that love a vibrant Pinot Noir. This rose has a slightly creamy texture and smells of freshly cut grass, honey blossom and red berries. An interesting alternative to the classic rosés from Provence, and the perfect pairing for a turkey sandwich or a juicy chicken burger.
BK Skin N’ Bones White - Adelaide Hills, Australia - $35
This quirky yet thirst quenching white is far from your typical happy hour tipple. It is made from a grape called Savagnin, which is most commonly found in the alpine region of the Jura in France. BK’s version is aromatic, savoury, and slightly salty with notes of bruised stone fruit, citrus and dried grapefruit peel. The Skin n’ Bones takes its name from the extended skin contact used during fermentation which helps add body, texture, and a slight savoury element. Try it with a selection of cheese on the deck once you’re finally able to bring your patio set out of hibernation.
Pra’ “Morandina” Valpolicella - Veneto,Italy - $29.50
You may have forgotten about Valpolicella after your love affair crashed and burned in the 90s, but it might just be time to rekindle your romance. Pra’ Valpolicella is made with 3 lesser known grape varieties typical to this region: Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella. Bursting with concentrated fruit, this little seductress tastes like the juice of freshly picked raspberries and cherries. The perfect bottle to share with your spring fling! Serve this red lightly chilled to help accentuate the freshness.
Broc Cellars Love Red - Green Valley, California - $34
BBQ season is back and this is going to be one of our go-to pairings this year. Broc Cellars main focus is to let the true character of their grapes shine through. They achieve this in part by using solely biodynamic practices, completely pesticide free and following the rigorous protocol required. The Love Red is sourced from 50-70 year old vines and is a unique field blend of Carignan, Syrah and Valdiguie (aka Napa Gamay). Soft and silky, the Love Red shows red currants, sour plums, and spring cherry blossoms. This is a perfect patio red that lives up to its name, perfect for a romantic evening or a Bobby Flay worthy grill session.
This month’s cocktail highlight features a delicious take on the French 75 created by Roman, one of our good friends over at Donna Mac. Roman’s version features a lavender twist, making it a perfect alternative to a mimosa at your next Sunday brunch or a refreshing cocktail to impress your friends with on a warm spring night.
Springtime in the Rockies
- ½ oz London Dry Gin
- ¼ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- ¼ oz Rich Simple Syrup*
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- 2 dashes Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
- Sparkling wine
- Lemon twist
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters. Shake vigorously with ice for 10 seconds. Strain into Fifth & Vermouth coupe glass. Top with your favourite dry sparkling wine (such as Prosecco or Cava), garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy!
*To make rich simple syrup: combine 2 parts sugar with 1 part water and heat slowly on the stove. Stir until all the sugar has completely dissolved. Let cool and strain into a mason jar or glass bottle. Can be kept sealed in the fridge for a week or more.