International Sauvignon Blanc Day: 2016 Adobe Reserva Sauvignon Blanc

5 05 2017

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

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International SB Day 2017!

I swear that not every future entry on this blog will begin with “Happy [Varietal-Specific Holiday] Day!”, but…Happy International Sauvignon Blanc Day!  Yes, there is an entire calendar of world wine days now, each concocted by various marketing geniuses, and as it turns out, a couple weeks after World Malbec Day and a scant four days before World Moscato Day comes a designated day to celebrate the safest grape to pick out of a strange new liquor store and the varietal that first introduced the vinous world to New Zealand, the consistent and omnipresent Sauvignon Blanc.  Unlike today’s grape of honour, I am not omnipresent, and as this piece posts I am actually going to be hanging out in Walla Walla drinking world-class Syrah; International SB Day falls on my birthday this year, and I am spending this spin-around-the-sun in my personal wine Mecca.  So the blog and I will celebrate simultaneously this year, albeit in different places and for different occasions. Read the rest of this entry »





World Malbec Day Review: 2014 Bodega Norton Barrel Select Malbec

17 04 2017

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

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Happy World Malbec Day!

Happy belated Easter to all – I hope your long weekend was filled with family and food and chocolate and wine in some order.  If you headed back to work on Easter Monday and were feeling the post-holiday blues, fear not, because there is another event on today that’s worth celebrating:  April 17th has been designated World Malbec Day, a designation I would bet many people choose to live out far more often.  In a blink sometime in the last decade, Malbec went from being an overlooked Bordeaux blending grape and an esoteric dark and chewy hidden treasure from Cahors to Australian Shiraz’s heir as the friendly, fruity, powerful gateway drug into the wonderful world of wine.  Whereas I stumbled onto Yellow Tail sometime in the early 2000s and worked my way up from there, nascent wine lovers today are heading to the previously non-existent Argentina section of their local liquor store and starting their odyssey with the grape, one that will hopefully last a lifetime. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Taylor Fladgate 1967 Single Harvest Port Release

11 04 2017

I almost always try to write up a tasting as soon as possible after I’ve experienced it, while memories are still fresh and the wines that were presented are still alive on my senses.  This is unfortunately not one of those times.  I must have triggered some kind of ancient Douro warlock’s curse upon cheerfully exiting La Chaumiere restaurant two weeks ago today, after tasting 100 combined years of Taylor Fladgate tawny Port and a trio of aged single-harvest releases that were collectively over a century and a half old, because within an hour of the tasting I was feeling queasy and unwell.  It only got grimmer and sicker after that, and I’ve only just emerged from that bleary world of nausea and cough drops and decongestants and come back to some semblance of myself.  But even if it was the Port gods who struck me down, it was totally worth it.

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Taylor Fladgate, thanks to savvy rationing and recent acquisitions of significant quantities of extensively aged Port stocks from another historic house, has one of the largest inventories of old cask-aged Port in the world.  In 2014, it decided to make use of this bounty by launching a remarkable program:  releasing a 50 year-old Single Harvest Port on an annual basis commemorating the half-century that came before.  The 1964 Single Harvest Port was the first of the line, but has since been followed by the 1965 in 2015, the 1966 in 2016, and, this year, the impending “new” release of the 1967 Taylor Fladgate Very Old Single Harvest Port.  Each of these bottles retails for around $250 and is the best possible 50th birthday or anniversary present that could exist on this world.  As a special nod to Canada, the 1967 bottling is also a Canadian Centennial edition (at least in this country), with a maple-leaf-adorned box liner marking our country’s 100th birthday on the year of its 150th.

FullSizeRender-578A quick tangent to explain this Port’s name and aging designation.  All Port starts just like other red wines do, with crushed grapes fermented on their skins.  With Port, however, the fermentation is halted halfway through, before much of the sugar has been converted to alcohol, by spiking the juice with high-proof (75+% abv) grape brandy, which kills the yeast, retains a large part of the grapes’ natural sweetness and boosts the alcohol level of the finished product to around 20%.  The Port is then put in large oak barrels for maturation, and what happens next is what determines its final identity.  In top vintages, some of this wine only spends a couple years in wood before being put in bottle for further non-oxidative aging.  This is Vintage Port, arguably Portugal’s crown jewel.  In lesser years, or with other lots, the wine stays a few extra years in barrel before hitting the bottle 4-6 years past vintage; this is Late-Bottled Vintage Port, generally a less ageable, earlier-drinking style, and one that was actually invented by Taylor Fladgate in the 1960s, a rare innovation in a very traditional winemaking landscape. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Moet & Chandon Winemaker Tasting @ Ruth’s Chris

24 03 2017

As it turns out, there is no inopportune time for Champagne.  Although the bubbly beverage has built its brand on being the drink of choice for special occasions and other times of celebration, it turns out that it’s equally nice to kick back with a glass of fine bubbles on an otherwise-normal Thursday afternoon.  It’s even better to kick back with six of them, which is what I was fortunate enough to do when Moet & Chandon winemaker Amine Ghanem came to town to lead an attentive and appreciative group through a good portion of the Champagne powerhouse’s portfolio.

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Amine Ghanem, Moet & Chandon.

Ghanem is one of 10 winemakers employed by Moet & Chandon in addition to their cellarmaster, or chef de cave, who directs and decides on the ultimate blend for each of the house’s Champagnes.  Moet has been doing its thing for centuries (since 1743, to be exact – Ghanem informed us that the very first bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne arrived in Canada in 1839, before we were even a country!), and as such has honed its house style to a fine point, with very clear goals as to the characteristics it seeks to draw out in its Champagnes and specific strategies in place to reach them.  The three pillars of the Moet & Chandon style are, in Ghanem’s words:  (1) “bright fruitiness”, which is attained in part by careful non-oxidative winemaking techniques, even to the point where the house has developed a technique for “jetting” oxygen out of the neck of the bottle after disgorgment to avoid degradation during the maturation process; (2) “seductive palate”, with a welcoming, easy-to-drink texture aided by full malolactic fermentation; and (3) “elegant maturity”, achieved largely through extended lees contact pre-disgorgment, for much longer periods than required by law.  These foundational principles must be working, as we were told that there is currently a bottle of Moet being popped somewhere around the world every second.

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In case the ten full-time winemakers on staff wasn’t a tip-off, Moet & Chandon is a massive undertaking.  It is the biggest house in Champagne and the owner of its largest vineyard holdings, amounting to almost 10% of the entire area under vine in the region.  Since 1962, it has even had its own brand of proprietary yeast, which helps accentuate the characteristics that reflect the house style.  Moet’s primary brand is Imperial, so named in recognition of founder Claude Moet’s 18th century friendship with a certain French emperor, none other than Napoleon Bonaparte.  Napoleon visited the winery many times and was a steadfast consumer of Moet Champagnes, and in 1869 the Imperial brand was christened in recognition of the 100th anniversary of his birth.  The Imperial NV blend starts out as 800 different base wines, which are gradually combined into 3 proposed blends (each featuring solid proportions of all three of Champagne’s grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) before one is selected.  The blending is as much of the artistry as the winemaking itself, and the efforts show in the bottle, which led off our tour-of-Moet tasting. Read the rest of this entry »





2015 Testalonga El Bandito Cortez

19 03 2017
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What a label. What a wine.

OK, so it’s been a long time.  I wasn’t intending to drop off the map for over a month after my last post, but a work tornado and a series of weekend Timbits tournaments then morphed into bronchitis that knocked me out of commission for a couple of weeks.  Thankfully, the antibiotics have run their course, my lungs and tastebuds are back to almost-normal and Pop & Pour is again ready to roll.

And what better way to get back in the swing of things than with something fantastically different?  And what better qualifier for that category than a $48 South African natural wine Chenin Blanc with a catchy pop-art label?  Seriously, this is one of the best labels I have ever seen on a bottle of wine.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I was buying the bottle, which is about as big a compliment as you can possibly pay to a branding tool.  The label for this Cortez bottling by Testalonga changes every year, but they absolutely killed this one, which tugs on my (and presumably every other father’s) heartstrings.  I love it.

Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Pierre Sparr Tasting @ Cassis Bistro

3 02 2017

Can there be any major French wine region more overlooked and underrated than Alsace?  It has all the frozen-in-time charm of Burgundy, with picturesque centuries-old villages dotting rolling hillsides of vineyards, and all the stately history of Bordeaux, but without the matching dose of self-importance.  Add in a dash of international conflict (the region has passed back and forth between France and Germany many times in the course of modern history) and a pinch of consumer friendliness (unlike almost anywhere else in France, Alsatian wines are all varietally labelled so everyone can easily see the grape that’s in the bottle) and you’d think you’d have a sensation.  But perhaps due to its location, tucked away in the northeastern corner of France, or to its primary focus on white grapes and prevailing Germanic influence, Alsace doesn’t get the hero’s welcome internationally that its fellow French stalwarts do, often left unexplored and misunderstood by New World consumers.  Thankfully, Bernard Sparr and others are out to set things right.

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Maison Pierre Sparr, 9th generation.

Bernard is part of the NINTH generation of the Sparr family that it carrying forward the legacy of Maison Pierre Sparr, the Alsatian house named after his grandfather but rooted in a winemaking family going back to 1680 (there’s that history I was talking about).  Pierre persevered through the ravaging of his domaine and vineyards in World War II, expanding the business and passing on a thriving enterprise to his two sons.  Bernard is the son of one of those scions, Rene Sparr, learning the rigours of blind tasting and the rhythms of the family winery from an early age.  Now he is helping expand the profile of the domaine overseas, settled in Quebec and taking on the role of North American ambassador for Pierre Sparr.  He is almost continually on the road, but despite the weariness of travel and an unfortunate cold that sapped his sense of smell, he was a warm and gracious host on Wednesday night, leading a cozy group through a lineup of French wines whose unifying trait was show-stopping value.

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In addition to directing international sales for the family domaine, Sparr also arranges for a small portfolio of like-minded tiny-production French producers to find their way into North America.  A few of these joined him for his visit to Calgary, so to accompany an absolutely marvellous five-course meal at Cassis Bistro, we were treated to a mixture of Pierre Sparr classics and intriguing finds from other regions, starting with a rosé with a distinct connection to a PnP favourite… Read the rest of this entry »





The Tournament of Pink (1st Ed.)

28 01 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Rosé:  it’s not just for summer anymore.  Well, it was never just for summer, but the shelves of your local wine shop wouldn’t have given you that impression a few short years ago.  I had a tremendously difficult time a couple years back trying to source some pink wines in November/December for use in office client Christmas gifting packages, because for many retailers, the presence of rosé within store walls was decidedly seasonal.  This remains the case to some extent (because it is virtually impossible to beat a chilled rosé as an out-on-your-deck-on-a-summer-evening wine), but I had an agent tell me recently that their pink sales outlook for this winter might just outpace their summer, and I’ve seen more rosé on Calgary shelves with snow on the ground this year than ever before.  This is an enlightened change for the better:  there may be no type of wine more versatile and more universally appealable to all types of cuisines and personalities than a good rosé.

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There can be only one.

So when I noticed that I had a quartet of bottles of rosé sitting by themselves in an unassuming pink group in my cellar, the time of year did not remotely deter me in coming to the obvious conclusion:  let’s open them all and drink them all at once, and let’s do so in a Kickboxer-style fight-to-the-death tournament.  Thus the Tournament of Pink was born.

The actual Tournament took place a week or so ago and was simulcast on Twitter and Facebook, but work commitments have kept me from immortalizing the results on PnP until now.  If you weren’t following along at the time, we played our game by splitting our four rosés into two qualifying heats where they battled for the right to face off for the Tournament of Pink crown in the final.  Game on. Read the rest of this entry »