Winery Websites

People often think that being a sommelier consists of drinking wine all day and then talking to guests of the restaurant all night. Sure, there is some truth in that. I am lucky enough to taste a great deal of wine, but I also have to do a lot of research about the wine independently. In this day and age, I am thankful for the internet as a resource tool. Most wineries have a website, making it easy to learn more about what is in the bottle. However, many of these wine sites are consumer-focussed and/or purely marketing and lack any sort of the technical detail I require as a professional sommelier. There are waiters to train, other sommeliers to discuss with and most importantly, paying guests that ask questions. When it is 9pm on a Friday I need to know whether or not that Riesling is sweet or just how juicy that Shiraz really is. Is there enough acidity to stand up to the braised lamb shoulder? If I want to completely geek out about a wine and learn about the clones of each variety and what vineyard they are grown in, I should be able to find that […]

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Put your wine in the microwave

So I read this article about putting pinot noir grapes in the microwave before being crushed and made into wine. The basic idea is that the grapes were fermented for a shorter time and had more colour and tannin. I don’t have access to enough grapes or the equipment to see what would happen myself, but I do have wine. And a microwave. I put the wine in the microwave for 60 seconds, and found that it took a very long time to come back down to proper cellar temperature of 62F. Once it did, the effects were noticeable. And it was not just myself, I poured side by side samples (same wine, one nuked, the other not) for a few other sommeliers and even a chef. One word that was repeated with each taster was metallic. The nuked wine simply lacked any life. It was dull and bitter on the finish and lack aroma too. Here is article that might explain why this happens. It also may make you want to throw your microwave out. If you are having a few people over one night, I suggest you try the side by side nuke test yourself. If you do, I would […]

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Champagne wishes and a flight to Reims

met the police the first night I was in France. Well I saw them, in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at. Arresting three men. I arrived in Reims, to tour the vineyards of Champagne and was tired from a long day of travel. Not only was I carrying my backpack, but also two bags under my eyes, as I searched the town for a place to sleep. The sun was going down, I was in a strange town where I knew no one, and no one knew where I was. And what’s more, I hardly knew the language. Armed with what I could remember of my high school French, I managed to find a room in the main district of town. I went upstairs to check out the room, and upon my return to the lobby, I was greeted with two police officers apprehending the three men in the lobby. Between yelling at the men and the police, the clerk managed to check me in. Only after seeing the hesitation on my face did he throw in a free breakfast. Welcome to France I thought; try the Champagne. And that was what I had come to do. […]

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The grapes of Beaune

“Are you leaving today?” M. Rousseau would ask me every morning. To which I would always answer, “maybe tomorrow.” M. Rousseau owned a little hotel that I was staying at just outside of the old city in Beaune. Beaune is a tiny town in the heart of the Cote d’Or where Burgundy’s most famous vineyards are located. Burgundy’s best wines are hidden, beneath the cobblestone streets of Beaune, aging in damp, dusty cellars, some of which date back to the 1800s. Burgundy’s wines come in two colours, red and white, and are made from the pinot noir grape and the chardonnay grape respectively. Technically in the Rhone department, Beaujolais is also considered a Burgundy, but it is made from the gamay noir grape. The first evidence of pinot noir grape was recorded in the 1370s, though it’s thought to have been widely used before that. The chardonnay of white Burgundy did not appear until after the Middle Ages. As for gamay noir, the first duke of Burgundy, Phillip the Bold, was very much interested in wine. Also of interest was the health of the people of Burgundy. So much so that he took it upon himself to outlaw the seemingly […]

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Cycling The World’s Most Dangerous Road

No, it doesn’t connect Whistler with West Vancouver There is a tour based out of La Paz, Bolivia that every traveller in South America will tell you about. It is a 63 km bike ride down what is dubbed by locals, The World’s Most Dangerous Road. This distinction is based on the fact that on average 100 people die each year as they travel to the next town. I have been on some pretty scary roads around the world, but in all cases as I peered out the window to the steep edges I had to completely trust the driver. This was different. I was on a mountain bike. No windows to look out, just a shoulder to look over. We left La Paz in the sun, but by the time we got out of the van it was cooler, cloudy and the thought of rain was not far from our minds. This was punctuated by the bike gloves that were given to us as part of the equipment; they were soaked from the last day’s tour. Over some breakfast of fried pancakes and blueberry, cinnamon, and clove tea the guides explained a little about the road and what we […]

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Writings about my passion for wine, and the people, places, and stories connected to it.