Speaking Sake

The net of knowledge that a sommelier must cast includes more than just wine.  Everything that is liquid must be known. Beer, spirits, coffee, tea and an often forgotten drink called sake. Over the course of two days last week I felt like I had tasted all the sake in Japan. But after some further research I realized that I had only scratched the surface. Sake is a drink that is made from rice – but not the rice that you have for dinner. The rice on your plate is smaller and contains more protein. There are over 80 varieties of shuzō kōtekimai or sake rice. It is akin to the difference between the table grapes that you eat and the Chardonnay grapes that make wine. The best variety of rice used for sake is Yamadanishiki. However Gohyakumangoku, Miyamanishiki and Omachi are also common. The rice used in the production of sake can come from anywhere, meaning that a bottle of sake can be made from rice from multiple locations. However, there is a growing trend toward single origin sakes. The quality level of sake starts with the rice polish. The large sake grade rice grain contains excessive amount of bran in the outer layers. […]

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Burgundy & Barolo

There are guests that come into the restaurant and know so much about a particular wine region that it makes me step back in envy. Getting to know such people and tasting the wines they bring greatly furthers my enjoyment and knowledge of wine. Over the past two years I have been lucky enough to taste some textbook examples of red and white Burgundy. The more I taste, the more I read and the more I study maps, the more I learn. It is a constant circle. I will never admit to know as much as the top authorities in Burgundy, but my understanding is growing with every glass. A region that I have been personally fond of this past winter is Barolo. Nestled in the hills of Piedmont just outside of Turino, Italy are a number of small of vineyards where the Nebbiolo grape is at home. During a recent Barolo themed dinner, I began to notice some striking similarities between the Pinot Noirs of Burgundy and the Nebbiolos of Barolo. First off, if you compare maps of both regions you will notice a patchwork of vineyards. In Burgundy the vineyards in the Côte D’Or run south to north with […]

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A few nights in Montreal

One of the best parts about being a sommelier is eating at other restaurants. Whether they are in my own city or another, I am always keen to see what is happening in other places. There are a million ways to do that same thing, and I love seeing the variations. A recent trip to Ontario had me planning to visit wineries and chat to winemakers. But I was hijacked for hijinks by an old friend and ended up in Montreal for a few nights. There are few better places to be enjoying variations in eating and drinking. We got to the city late in the afternoon and were both hungry and thirsty. We found a new wine bar called Furco, quickly settled in and started with a bottle of Georges Descombes Régnié from Beaujolais, a wine made from the Gamay grape. There are 10 crus of Beaujolais and Régnié was the last one to receive such status in 1988. The Gamay grown there tend to be softer and more forward wines. Georges Descombes only has 2 hectares of grapes in Régnié and he knows how to use them. Thankfully his wines are imported into BC by Racine Wine Imports. Furco’s open […]

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Wine Fest Recap

Vancouver International Wine Festival Week Recap Wine fest week in Vancouver is a busy time for trade, and a very busy time for sommeliers at Hawksworth Restaurant, one of Canada’s top rooms and wine programs. Our Somm in the City kept a running log of his week’s wine-fuelled events/insanity for EAT. Monday, February 25, 2013 Late night last night at work as we begin to set up the week ahead. Re-printing wine list to reflect wines that are sold out and the new wines that have arrived. Early morning run in the rain. Breakfast and work by 10:30am. I have to make sure all the buttons are made in Micros, our point of sale system. Each wine that comes or goes on the wine list has a button attached to it for inventory. Each time a wine is rung in, it is accounted for. Technology is helpful, but it still means that each wine has to be physically counted. That’s my first job this morning once I arrive at work. Lunch was the standard rush from 12-2pm. What was unusual was the amount of wine that was sold. Typically Monday guests are not committed to the week by Monday lunch – […]

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Good Days & Bad Days

As a sommelier I start every month by counting bottles. Or depending on the business, I end the month with the dreaded count. But it happens. Every month. When people get googly eyed when I tell them I am a sommelier, I tell them there are good days and bad days. Inventory is never the best. The best, for me, is when things are busy. When people are willing to try the lesser-known grape varities. Or when people tell me that the wine I helped them find on the list was one of the best ones they have ever had. Often it is hard to tell what the night has in store when I look at the numbers late in the afternoon. I have seen it difficult to get through 80 covers or a breeze to do 130. There have been nights when there were only 60 covers in on the books, one waiter is sent home by 7, but 8 the place is packed. “Walk-ins” we call them. Where did they come from? Did the waiter tell them to come in until after their shift was over? Hard to tell, but that is when things get interesting. When we […]

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