The Grape Nut
with Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson
- here, or read the amendments themselves here.Indeed, Manitobans may not be directly affected by many of the regulation changes, and some of the changes are more technical/administrative. There are some new security measures, higher fines for breaking the law, and so forth.There are a few specifics I'm interested in, especially amendment 39(2.2), which states that "A family member of a deceased person or the executor of a deceased person's estate may obtain a special permit that authorizes the holder to sell or auction liquor owned by the deceased person."Another amendment that will directly impact Manitoba imbibers is that the maximum amount of alcohol one person can buy at a time has been changed to 750ml of beer, 500ml of wine, or 85.2ml of spirits or fortified wine (port, sherry, etc.). Essentially, this means one individual can now buy two drinks at once.The impact this might have on pubs could be interesting - Manitobans have long been buying scaled-down pints of beer (about 500ml, or 16 ounces), and could now be offered an Imperial pint (586ml, or 20 fluid ounces). In fact, the Lo Pub (330 Kennedy Street, in the Hosteling International building) is celebrating the change in legislation with an "Imperial Dance March" tonight (if you're on Facebook, check out the details here (warning: some commentors have used profanity on the "wall" of this page).Overall, I think the changes that have been made to the Liquor Control Act are positive. I'm going to spend the weekend looking over the fine details, perhaps over a big pint - nothing goes better with a long weekend and some legalese than a fine lager. I'll report back if anything else of interest pops up. If you go out over the weekend and find things are a bit different because of these amendments, I'd love to hear about it.***Long weekend alert! Manitoba's Liquor Marts will be closed on Monday, August 4 for the long weekend. One exception: the Gimli Liquor Mart will be open from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM to serve those pesky Icelanders celebrating Islendingadagurinn (I DARE you to try Brennivin. It won't put hair on your chest, but it might peel it right off). Winnipeggers can still pick up brewskis at beer vendors, or some vino at private wine stores, as most will be open on Monday (although possibly operating on a holiday schedule). Call in advance if you're not sure.***Coming soon: my book review, a wine blog roll call, and more. Go Bombers!
- Penfolds 1998 Grange (Australia - $ hundreds or so, not available)The nose on the Grange (97 per cent Shiraz, 3 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon) is subtle but complex, with aromas of leather, black cherry, cinnamon, and a hint of ash. The fruit component on the nose is bright and concentrated. It's ultra-soft and velvety on the palate, with tannins that are still fairly pronounced but quite supple. There's some great up-front juiciness to this wine, with beautiful cherry and plum flavours. It's an extremely elegant wine - some wine geeks would call this a 'feminine' style, but I've never liked the feminine/masculine descriptors - and the finish is extremely long and smooth. Penfolds' tasting notes suggest drinking between 2010 and 2040, but it didn't seem like this bottled was opened too early. Not as big as some of the other wines we tried from more recent vintages, but a wine loaded with character and finesse. Were I to score it out of 100, I'd probably lean in the direction of about 97-98. It is the complete package.For more thoughts on the '98 Grange, check out these reviews. I'll try and think of some more legendary wines I've been lucky enough to try, if people are interested in hearing about 'em. I'll also try and compile some notes on all the 2007 Rieslings I tried in Germany.Oh yes - I've almost finished writing up a review of Neil Rosenthal's book, Reflections of a Wine Merchant. It's been a somewhat onerous task, not unlike writing book reports in grade school. I hope I pass.
- terroir and Weir. Again, this is why I don't work writing headlines.
- Sip 'N' Savour e-newsletter from Manitoba's Liquor Marts, and it looks like The Great One is hitting the 'Peg this summer in advance of his Phoenix Coyotes' visit to the MTS Centre this fall.Well, if you count his wine, that is. That's right - Wayne Gretzky Estates wines (from the Niagara Peninsula) are now available in Manitoba. The red (a Meritage blend - that is to say, a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) will set you back $15.95 plus taxes, while the unoaked Chardonnay is fifty cents cheaper.Gretzky is one of many celebs to lend their name to wine; in Canada there's also Mike Weir and Dan Aykroyd, there's Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Olivia Newton-John from Australia, Ernie Els from South Africa, and many from the US, including Francis Ford Coppola, Motley Crue's Vince Neil, and even Elvis Presley.[note: I'm way too lazy to search for links to each of these wineries - a quick Google search should get you to the websites.]In Manitoba, Gretzky's wines are in the same price range as Aykroyd's (and the Elvis wines), while Norman, Weir and Faldo are slightly more (the latter is available exclusively at Kenaston Wine Market, I believe). Coppola's wines run the gamut in price, and he's by far the most involved in the actual winemaking process - most of the rest simply give their approval or lend their name to wines.Obviously, Elvis has little to say about or do with his wines... OR DOES HE? I can just see the headlines at the grocery store:"ELVIS SPOTTED PRUNING MERLOT IN CALIFORNIA!"I think I see a celebrity wine blind tasting column in my near future...
- here. Decanter reports that the English wine community (oh yes, there is one) is up in arms over a comment made by the Prince's personal secretary that the wine was made with surplus English wine. In fact, it's being made using wine that is no longer fit for consumption.At the rate gas prices are rising, maybe it won't be long before I'm filling up my Corolla with unleaded Zinfandel...***I've just about finished Neal Rosenthal's Reflections of a Wine Merchant, a charming tale of his adventures in France and Italy as a wine importer over the past thirty years. Rosenthal is one of many interviewed featured in Mondovino, a documentary about wine and globalization that came out a few years ago. I'd definitely recommend the book - it's an easy, engaging read that pays homage to the hard-working small producers whose wines are (or were) imported to the US by Rosenthal. A more complete review to follow.***Santa Margherita is once again a principal supporter of the AIDS - Walk for the Cure event. From July 21 to August 17, 50 cents from every bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio purchased will be donated to the National AIDS Walk for Life (the walk itself will take place in mid-September). Last year, national sales of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio resulted in a donation of $65,000 to the cause.
- é or some bubbly. If I'm going to have a white wine, it might be a Portuguese Vinho Verde or an Italian Pinot Grigio - something crisp and refreshing. If I opt for a red, it'll be light and fruity - a Beaujolais, perhaps, or a New World Pinot Noir.But if the mercury soars like it has been today, odds are I'll opt for a Canuck microbrew.**UPDATE** How could I not link to this story by the Telegraph: Prince Charles's Aston Martin is wine powered
- Segway whilst wheeling about the Twin Cities. Read about it here. When I think of Segways, I can't help but think of Will Arnett's character (G.O.B.) from the too-quickly-canceled Fox series Arrested Development. I'd prescribe a big, ripe Aussie Shiraz for the aches and pains, but don't call me in the morning.I'm heading out to Calgary this afternoon for two days of non-stop tasting in conjunction with Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards. The goal is to find the best wines under $25; the wines are tasted in flights (groups) of about 15-18, and are tasted blind by the judging panels. This means we don't know who the producers are or what country the wines are from, ensuring some form of objectivity (taste is obviously subjective, but at least craftsmanship and the like can be judged pretty fairly).So tomorrow and Thursday I'll be tasting (and spitting) about 100 wines per day. I participated last year, and found it was an extremely valuable (and fun) experience as a taster. Frankly, I'm looking forward to tasting anything other than Riesling - it seems like I've had very little else since returning from Germany.Anyway, once the judging is over, we're given all our tasting notes and scores (out of 100), and the wines we tasted are revealed. Seeing the nearly 1,000 bottles lined up in various groups is something else (I've remembered to pack my camera this time, and will be sure to try and capture the magnitude of the event). I'm hoping to get in a bit of wine shopping in while I'm there, but since I'm only bringing carry-on luggage, my options are somewhat limited. Besides, after picking up a box full of German wines after my last trip and finding three of them broken, I'm not encouraged to travel with wine at present.
- here. In total, Canadians spent an average of $667 per person (over the age of 15... an interesting age to choose) on alcohol.Just throwing the numbers out there for now, but I'll have more reflection on these new stats in the weeks to come, as well as news on some shake-ups at two of the world's largest beverage conglomerates.
- yesterday's installment). Now that, my friends, is preparation. This was also one of the few stops where we actually got to try a red wine (two even!), which was a welcome pause from the barrage of Riesling. Don't get me wrong... I love the stuff. But if you had something you loved (say, for example, a KitKat) thirty times a day, you'd want to have something else after a few days. But I digress.Anyhow, we had a great visit at Lingenfelder, trying a good cross-section of wines before leaving the Pfalz region for Trier, in the Mosel region. We attended a large tasting of 30ish producers in this fabulous rec centre that had once been a cathedral. And yes, almost all the wines sampled were Riesling.We drove out of Trier in the early evening, checked into our hotel in Muhlheim, and out the door we went to dinner, which was quintessential German food: large pieces of meat, potato sides, asparagus (seriously, asparagus is in some way incorporated into every meal), and the occasional garnish all washed down with a wheat beer. It's heavy stuff.Tomorrow we ride bikes to Bernkastel-Kues for a winery visit before an afternoon hike through some vineyards. Vines cover the rolling hills (small mountains?) at a ridiculous slant, so this hike could really be something...
- Michael Jackson's Whisky: The Definitive World Guide showed up at my house. So here's some extra info on how whisky is made, how to taste whisky, and a few more tasting notes I didn't have room for in the column...The basics on how whisky is made: malted barley and water are combined or “mashed” to produce wort; at this point yeast is introduced, and the fermentation process of converting sugar in the wort to alcohol begins (the conversion takes longer than it would with grapes). The end result of fermentation is then distilled (which involves vaporization and condensation) either in vats (bigger companies) or in copper stills (the traditionalists).Tasting whisky: first off, it's often called "nosing" rather than tasting - after all, many of the subtle differences come from the variances in aromas. Start with a small, tulip-shaped wine glass - nothing etched or fancy. Don't bother trying to pick up all the subtleties from a glass tumbler. Check out the colour - is it deep gold? Amber? Pale straw? This will be a good indication as to what type of cask it was aged in, and for how long.Now take a sniff, just like you would a glass of wine, noting all the aromas. Before tasting the whisky, don't be afraid to dilute it slightly using bottled water - tap water will impart chlorine aspects. Many whisky buffs add water - this way you get the aromas and flavours without the raging alcohol content. Avoid ice cubes or soda water. And obviously cola or ginger ale isn't the way to go here.Some folk place their hand over the rim of the glass and give the whisky a good shake. I've tried this and the results (to my shirt) haven't been pretty. Doing this, however, will maximize the odours and flavours released.The actual tasting process is the same as wine - note the flavours, weight, texture and finish on the whisky. And there you have it - you're ready to get nosing.Some more single malt Scotch whiskies I've tried as of late follow - I was lucky enough to try a whole whack of whiskies side by side. Most of these should be available at Liquor Marts.Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($58.78)The bourbon-sherry-ish notes (likely from the casks) shine through on the nose, as do aromas of oranges and toasted oak. It's very mellow on the palate, with orange peel and cocoa flavours before a medium finish.Glenfarclas 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($62.32/700ml)Loads of nuts on the nose of this one, especially almonds, with some pear undertones. Much bigger peat on this single malt, with the nutty, caramel components coming through on the palate.Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($54.95)Vanilla and fig dominate on the nose, while a toasty, burnt tire flavour comes through on the palate. It's a juicy, weighty single malt.Bowmore 15 Year Old "Mariner" Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($53.74)Big aromas of vanilla, caramel and cinnamon prevail on the nose, while the palate is far more complex. Fruity, floral, peaty and toasty flavours make this a well-rounded single malt and a definitely fine dram.Glenmorangie "The Original" Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($58.74)The nose brings aromas of honey, flowers, almonds and peanuts - that Scotch saltiness - with juicy citrus flavours on a round, full palate.Glenmorangie "Quinta Ruban" Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($71.67)Sherry casks are in play on this single malt, with a round, nutty nose counterbalanced by some ripe green apple aromas. There's a slight sweetness here, with some definite sherry characteristics as well as chocolate and spice. Excellent.Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Grande Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($120.97)Vanilla, spice, and lemon pepper aromas all emerge here - not too unusual, as this single malt is aged in Cuban rum casks. Lemon and other citrus components interact with rounder vanilla flavours, both of which impart a slight sweetness.Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($76.51)This big fella weighs in at 68 per cent alcohol - some diluting recommended. Honey and banana dominate the nose, with a hint of some sort of anise aroma that reminded me of Jagermeister (in a good way). It's a big, ripping single malt with lots of peat and pepper.Auchentoshan "Three Wood" Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($74.02)Ah yes, three wood... yet another golf club I destroy golf courses with. It's triple (rather than double, which is the norm) distilled, not peated, and aged in oloroso (Sherry) casks. The nose is quite complex, with aromas of barley, mint, herbs and lime. The palate is clean due to the lack of peat, and features fruity characteristcis blended with nuts and pepper.
- a local band. We travelled through Germany, with quick stops in Austria, the Czech Republic, and France's Alsace region. By this time I was working in the local wine industry, so it pains me to think that I never took the time to visit wineries or drink much wine there. I did, however, get to try many regional German beers - after every show, the promoter would typically load a milk crate-like container into our van, full of half-litre bottles of the local brew. When I got home a month later, I brought home a shameful spare tire as, uh, "carry-on."I'll be the first to admit that I often overlook German wines, so it'll be a good opportunity to connect with the Riesling-heavy European producer. I'll also be interested to see what German producers are doing with other varietals; many typically produce Pinot Gris (aka Grauburgunder), Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) and Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder), but some are starting to plant Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and other common varietals.Providing I have access to "das Internet", I'll be updating on a daily (or at least regular) basis on what's shaking along the beautiful Rhine river.It looks like I'll be stopping in Calgary for a couple of days to participate as a judge in Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards. I participated for the first time last year, and learned a tremendous amount about wine judging, blind tasting, and how to trash your palate by tasting 500ish wines in a week. Good times!A Chilean adventure seems to be in the cards as well, but not until November. Winnipeg will be going into a deep-freeze while Chile will be heading into summer. Sounds like perfect timing to me.* The tributes continue to pour in for Robert Mondavi, who died May 16. Check out this hour-long radio tribute here (it's the third selection down, under "What's Cookin' on Wine"). There are some fond remembrances here, here, and here (among many others) as well.
Wine in the 'Peg, two things I meant to mention in the last few days (which have been taken up by day job stuff and trying to figure out my new laptop):
- ürztraminer (Pelee Island, Ontario)Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2006 "Ogopogo's Lair" Pinot Grigio (Okanagan Valley, BC) - watch for a review on this one in this tomorrow's columnBalthasar Ress Rheingau Riesling Trocken (Rheingau, Germany)Mt. Boucherie 2006 Pinot Gris (Okanagan Valley, BC)Basa Do Rueda 2006 (Spain - sampled at De Luca's Fine Wines booth)Casa Tamaya 2006 VCS [Viognier-Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc] (Chile)Red Truck "White Truck" white (California)Bridlewood Reserve Viognier (California)***Best RedsIronstone Reserve Cabernet Franc (California)Rutini 2005 Malbec (Argentina)Tolaini 2004 Picconero (Tuscany, Italy - sampled at the Banville and Jones booth)Peter Dennis 2004 Shiraz (Australia - sampled at the Pembina Fine Wines booth)Coyote's Run 2004 Meritage (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario)Sandhill 2005 Cabernet Merlot (Okanagan Valley, BC)[yellow tail] 2006 Reserve Shiraz (Australia)Hedonist Shiraz (Australia - sampled at the Fenton's Wine Merchants booth)Rochioli Pinot Noir (California - sampled at the Kenaston Wine Market booth)Anakena "Ona" Pinot Noir Merlot Syrah Viognier (Chile)Francis Ford Coppola Ivory Label Cabernet Sauvignon (California)Nepenthe Zinfandel (Australia... yes, an Australian Zinfandel)Rosemount Estate 2005 GSM [Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre] (Australia)Santa Carolina El Bosque Syrah (Chile)Tintara Reserve Grenache (Australia)***Bubbly/Rose/Dessert/FortifiedChamarré 2006 Grenache-Syrah Rose (France - watch for a review in this tomorrow's column)Umberto Cesari Refolo Brut (Italy - sampled at La Boutique Del Vino's booth)Casa Tamaya 2007 Pink Goat Rosé (Chile)De Bortoli Deen Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon (Australia)Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery "The Last Bars" Vidal Icewine (Okanagan Valley, BC)Segura Viudas Brut Heredad Reserva (Spain)Warre's 1999 LBV [Late Bottled Vintage] Port (Portugal)Wolf Blass Yellow Label Brut (Australia)Chamarré 2003 Jurançon [dessert wine] (France)Whew... lots more to come here in blogsville...
About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson
When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.
The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).
Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.
In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.
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