Calgary Wine Life: Meet Alberta Winestein

30 01 2013

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

AlbertaWinestein_logoJPGHow much of your 2012 Christmas shopping did you do online?  In my case, the answer comes perilously close to “all of it”.  No malls to brave, no parking to find, no bags to carry, just page after page of every imaginable type of gift easily accessible from the comfort of my house — it’s hard to see the downside.  The Internet has increasingly become my retail destination of choice, and over the past few years I have purchased any number of things online:  books, movies, furniture, shares, even (sort of) a dog.  But wine?  Forget about it, at least in Alberta.  While e-commerce has started to become an important part of the wine industry in the US, there has been almost a total vacuum in the local market, with no retailers offering a comprehensive online ordering platform and no other service providers stepping up to fill the void…until now.  With its formal launch earlier this month, Alberta Winestein (http://www.albertawinestein.com) is making online wine ordering a reality in our province and is seeking to bring high quality boutique products to every corner of Alberta.

The idea is a simple but powerful one:  find some way to connect the scores of wine buyers across the province to the wares of some of Calgary’s most respected and prestigious shops, to the benefit of all parties.  After a couple years of intense planning, Alberta Winestein founder and CEO Guillaume Bedard is now ready to implement his strategy to realize this goal.  “As a consumer, it was difficult and time-consuming to know what unique products were offered in Alberta from all the best boutique retailers,” Bedard explains.  “We dreamed of a way to ease our search while using state of the art e-commerce services.  We then realized that boutique retailers are themselves under increasing pressure from large surface retailers and are now facing greater competition than ever while trying to address a growing market demand.  That is when Alberta Winestein went from concept to reality:  a central e-commerce platform for amazing boutique retailers in order to ease the purchasing process for consumers.” Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Bin 905 Chateau de Beaucastel Tasting @ Divino, Part II

7 05 2012

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

In full swing — there were probably 150 glasses on the table.

For Part I of this mammoth tasting write-up, click here.

After the first half-dozen wines of Bin 905’s Chateau de Beaucastel vertical tasting, spanning six vastly different bottles from 1989 to 1999, we took a 15 minute break to chew on some cheese and cleanse our palates.  After the first 1700 words of my tasting review covering those six bottles, I took a 7 day break to get mentally prepared to delve into another topsy-turvy whirlwind of a decade of Beaucastels.  The second half of the tasting covered six wines from the 2000s and included one of my least favourite wines of the tasting…but also my wine of the night.  First up, tasked with trying to make me forget about the likely-corked 1999, was the Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-de-Pape from 2000. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Bin 905 Chateau de Beaucastel Tasting @ Divino, Part I

30 04 2012

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

Divino's Stone Cellar, a.k.a. Tasting Central.

I had fully intended that this monthly post would showcase a different player in the Calgary wine scene every month, highlighting the incredible depth of industry talent we have at our disposal locally.  And yet here I am, in CIA post #4, writing about another tasting put on by Bin 905, hosts of the Jim Barry Armagh tasting I covered back in February.  I know we have a remarkable array of wine stores out there, and I know many of them are doing great things with their event schedules, but I can’t say that I feel bad about the Bin 905 duplication because the tasting I went to on Saturday was just that cool.  Held at Divino restaurant’s Stone Cellar, it was a 12-bottle vertical tasting of one of the best and most historic producers of the famed Chateauneuf-de-Pape region in France’s Southern Rhone Valley, Chateau de Beaucastel.  A vertical tasting provides a unique opportunity to track the progress of a wine as it ages and lets you see the impact that a given year has on the style and flavour of a bottle, since you taste the same producer’s wine over a number of vintages; in this case, we tried Beaucastels from the mid-90s through the late-oos (whatever you call that decade), as well as one particularly special bottle from the tremendous vintage of 1989.  The initial tasting program featured far fewer bottles, but Bin 905 had the ingenious idea of offering people a free seat at the tasting if they brought a bottle of Beaucastel from a year that wasn’t yet in the lineup.  Thanks to a number of philanthropic volunteers, we all got treated to the most complete vertical tasting I’ve ever been a part of…which isn’t saying much, since I’ve only been a part of two, but it was still impressive.

Chateau de Beaucastel is a legendary producer in Chateauneuf-de-Pape:  along with a handful of others, it represents the creme de la creme of the region’s growers and winemakers.  CNDP stands out as a wine region because it permits 13 different grape varieties (combined red and white) to be included in its wines, a number that is dramatically higher than most other European wine-growing areas.  Beaucastel in turn stands out as a producer because, in almost all of its bottlings of red CNDP, it incorporates all 13 varietals into the mix, even the whites.  Like most other wineries from Chateauneuf-de-Pape, Beaucastel’s blends rely mostly on the big three red Southern Rhone grapes — Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre — but Beaucastel again takes a particularly individual approach to its winemaking by incorporating much more Mourvedre (usually around 30%) and much less Syrah (usually around 10%) in its blends as compared to most of its brethren.  The result is a deeper, thicker, more complex wine that ages very well and that spawns a host of secondary flavours after a few years in the bottle.  I had only ever had Chateau de Beaucastel from a recently-released vintage, and it was so knotted and closed upon opening that I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about until about 2 hours later, when I came back to the wine to find an absolute labyrinth of tastes and smells just starting to stretch their legs.  At the time I thought:  how great would it be to try one of these after it has had a proper chance to age?  It turns out I went one better, sitting down to this amazing event that brought a dozen bottles of Beaucastel from 5 to 23 years old into my grasp. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Jim Barry “The Armagh” Tasting @ Bin 905

27 02 2012

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

In all its glory.

Nothing improves a good bottle of wine more than a good accompanying back-story, and I ended up at the Jim Barry Armagh tasting at Bin 905 in Mission on Friday night due to one of the best wine tales in my recent memory.  The Armagh Shiraz, one of Australia’s rarest, priciest and highest quality bottles, was named after the hamlet of Armagh adjoining the Clare Valley wine region in South Australia, a small village that was initially established by Irish settlers and named after the county of Armagh in Ireland…which in turn is where my friend Fiona was born.  Upon walking into Bin 905 and seeing a sign advertising an “Armagh” wine tasting, Fiona immediately grabbed a ticket for it and also ordered a bottle, not knowing that it cost around $250 and not caring when she found out.  Not one to turn down a chance to drink ludicrously expensive wine for a less-than-ludicrous price, and not being likely ever to come across a wine named after my homeland (the Jim Barry “Edmonton”?), I jumped at the chance to come along to the event. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Bin 905 German Riesling Extravaganza

20 08 2011

Despite declaring on the header of this site that Pop & Pour is an “Independent Calgary Wine Blog”, I’ve been guilty of not really focusing many of my posts on the wine scene in Calgary.  I want this blog to be of general interest and not overly localized, but at the same time one of my initial goals in starting up PnP was to draw attention to hometown events and shops and help fellow Calgarians make the most of the wine-related opportunities offered in the city.  Today gave me a perfect opportunity to advance this latter goal:  this afternoon, Bin 905 (located on 4th St. and 23rd Ave SW) held a German Riesling Extravaganza (their title, not mine, although I fully endorse it), where anyone could drop in and sample 5 different German Rieslings from top producers, ranging fully dry to fully sweet, valued at $30 to $50 a bottle, at no charge.  Sorry, did you say free German Riesling tasting?  I’m there!  And so I was. Read the rest of this entry »








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