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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A lament for my vintage

I was born in the wrong vintage. Not for drinking, but rather for collecting. Wines have never been more clean, stable and abundant than they are now. But the fundamentals, the classics, the benchmark wines are simply way out of my price range these days. That was not always the case. With the official inclusion of the BYOB (corkage) in the BC restaurant world last year, I have had the opportunity to taste some of the world’s finest wines, properly cellared by our guests. And time and time again I am told that they cost a fraction of what they do now. Krug Non Vintage for $5 a bottle? Apparently the bottle I opened last week was purchased in Alberta for that price in the 70’s. Piper-Heidsieck Rare for $50? No problem. Bordeaux and Burgundy? Lets just say that Rousseau Pere et Fils Chambertin Clos-de-Beze Grand Cru was at one time actually affordable and available! Yes, it’s certainly not as easy or affordable to buy these wines today; wines that have the advantage of science and technology and benefit from winemakers that have been around the world a few times. The wines being made today are certainly different from the […]

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I am an acid freak!

I like acid. Like might be too soft a word. On a hot summer day, nothing says refreshing like a glass of bright and fresh wine with acidity so sharp you could shave with it. Not only is it wonderful to drink, but it is also very important and often misunderstood. Acidity plays an important role in wine, contributing to both the aging process and in keeping the wine refreshing and balanced. Even though acidity is one of the most important components for aging, many people often confuse it with something that would cause great discomfort. They may think an acidic wine will be tart or sour, but will happily order a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. People like a bright and refreshing style of wine, but the word acid seems to have a bad reputation. There is acid in many fruits, making the sweetness palatable and refreshing. Imagine drinking a strong solution of sugar and water. Thick and sweet right? Add some acid to the solution and it will help mitigate the sweetness and balance the drink. Or, the reverse: go suck on a lemon for a while and see how that feels. Now take a sip of that […]

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Restaurant Wine Etiquette

As a sommelier, I see guests reacting to the pomp and circumstance of wine service every night. For diners not used to wine service, it can be intimidating. Some are simply more comfortable with it than others. Learning to become a sommelier takes dedicated practice. There are books to read and memorize, wines to taste and bottles to count. Anyone can be a wine lover, but not a sommelier. A sommelier means that you are serving wine to the public and counting inventory at the end of each month. It is a job firmly rooted in the costumer service industry. Without customers, I would be of no service. That said, being a good custumer takes some practice also. When faced with a sommelier and a wine list, I often see guests becoming intimated and forgetting that wine is just about having a good time and sharing a bottle or three with friends. Therefore, I’d like to offer a few helpful suggestions so your comfort with wine service will increase and the entire dinner will be much more enjoyable. The presentation Once you have ordered the wine and the sommelier comes back to present you with the bottle, make sure that […]

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Around the world in four days

Some meals end with brandy. My week of tasting started with it. And not just any brandy, mind you. The week kicked off with Louie XIII, one ofRémy Martin’s top brandies. A very well dressed Alexandre Quintin, an International Brand Ambassador for the House of Rémy Martin, walked a group of sommeliers and bartenders through the history and a tutored tasting of Louie XIII. Top quality brandy is made from distilled wine that is aged in barrels for a very long time, resulting in colour, flavours and texture that is simply sublime. In the case of Louie XIII the average brandy is 40-100 years old. Usually my brandy drinking happens at 11pm, not 11am! But as we were told, 11am and 5pm is when the cellar master tastes newly distilled eau de vie each day in the caves. This is thought to be the time when you are furthest from food and your palate is the freshest. In the 1988 movie Cocktail, Tom Cruise accepts a wager for a bottle Louie XIII. At the time he remarked that $500 for a bottle of brandy was a pretty big bet. Currently a bottle of Louie XIII is $3000 in BC. Rarity and […]

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Writing

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