Chinese New Year Dinner (1st of 2019)

Treasury Wine Estates hosted the first of the Loh Hei dinners to usher in the year of the Boar. Amongst the dishes and wines served up, the Cuvee Grand Esprit Champagne was a befitting suitor for the Abalone Yu Sheng. Other enjoyable dishes included a BBQ whole suckling pig, hokkien fish maw soup, crispy fried soon hock with trufle sauce and broccoli, fujian prawn ngoh hiang and stewed hokkien mee sua.

Guests were encouraged to find their favourite pairings of food and wine. Highlights for me included the pairing of Penfolds bin 407 (2016) with the mee sua, the Beringer founders estate cab sauv (2016) with ngoh hiang and the synergistic pairing of an entire new style of ‘wine’ with the suckling pig. The wine is the Penfolds Lot 518 spirited wine with Baijiu.

Most interesting ‘wine’ of 2019

This is a wine that has been ‘ennobled’ with the famous Chinese Baijiu. You might expect the wine’s fruit to be subdued, but the blend is so sensibly achieved (only 6% of the spirit was added to wine), that all the wine’s aromas are still intact. Similarly, in this blend, the wine has not diluted the baijui’s spirited veurve . The spirit still shines through at the back palate. The ‘bite’ you get from drinking the Baijui still comes through, but as a spicy and rich finish that warms your mouth. Potent enough and ideal as accompaniment to some Asian dishes that would otherwise overbearing and subdue wine. I look forward to trying the lot 518 with prawn paste chicken, rojak, Sichuan hot pot etc.

Sweet ends came with the lovely pairing of Penfolds Father 10 year old Tawny with love letters and pineapple tarts.

Barolo of Pio Cesare

Pio Cesare’s Barolo Wines – published in Wine & Dine end 2018

On the mist-covered vine-clad hills of the Piedmonte, you’ll find two of Italy’s most engaging wines – the Barbaresco and Barolo. Grown from the Nebbiolo grape, no less.

Nebbiolo wine flavours

What lies in every bottle is pure poetry. In its youth there is already maturation and complexity. The Nebbiolo grape produces lightly coloured red wines with a huge dose of astringency. The aromas are plentiful – blackberry, strawberry, cherries, raspberries with overtones of herbs, liquorice and roses. Over time, Barbaresco and Barolo wines mature to reveal perfumed aromas and flavours such as truffles, smoke, leather, tar, violets, wild herbs, tobacco, prunes and animal notes – the hallmark of lovingly aged fine wine.

But that’s not all. Choosing when to enjoy your Nebbiolo wine is half the fun.

Traditional, Modern or something in-between?

Some Barbarescos and Barolos are made in the traditional style. Here wine is kept with skins and seeds for two months then aged in big old casks made of chestnut or Slovenian oak called botti. The liquid then slowly oxidizes. What results is a tannic and austere wine, with delightful notes of tar, camphor, leather and more. These bottles are best approached after ten years.

Then there’s the ‘New Wave’ Barbaresco and Barolo. Made in the modern style, with fruit flavour intact, the wine is aged for a shorter period in new small oak barrels and/or a blend of new and old oak (French and Slovenian).

With climate change, producers of the New Wave claim that being able to harvest ripe grapes means that the traditional method of extended maceration is no longer necessary. The resulting wines have creamy, fruity-sweet New World characteristic coupled with vanilla, smoke and spice overtones imparted by the barrels. Best of all, one does not have to wait too long for the wines to confer gratification.

Then there’s the middle-ground winemakers. Several producers felt that the New Wave style approach led to Barolos and Barbarescos being undistinguishable from other New World wines. They began to use production methods which incorporate the traditional and the modern. Wines are aged in both the botti and barrique. You may surmise that this style incorporates the best of the worlds.

Pio Cesare is one such producer and estate of the latest category. Grapes still go through a relatively long maceration, pre- and post- fermentation; but ageing is both in small barriques (composed off 1/3rd new, 1/3rd one year old and 1/3rd two year old) as well as in the traditional botti.

Recently, fourth generation Pio Boffa was in Singapore to present ‘An insight into Pio Cesare Single Vineyards, Blends and Barrel Samples’.

Pio Cesare dates back to 1881 and in historical terms, is as traditional as you get. In those days, every Piedmont family each had their secret recipe of how to produce wine. Grapes were purchased from vineyards in various parts of the region. For example, if grapes came from the western hills of Barolo, they were grown on sandy light soil with some stones. The resulting wine would have a certain finesse, with softer tannins and is often approachable early. If grapes were grown on the limestone compact soils of the eastern hills, the wines will be concentrated and have heftier tannins. Wines would be long ageing.

Yet soils are not the only distinguishing factor. Research has revealed that microclimate is another variant. The western commune of La Morra offers wines that are often fruity and elegant, thanks to the moderating influence (warmth) of the river nearby.

And in the east, Serralunga d’Alba and Monteforte d’Alba, the commune wines are perfumed but big and tannic, the result of a colder growing area.

By the 20th Century, Pio Cesare sought better control of the fruit source and began acquiring vineyards. Production today remains at 400,000 bottles per annum – the output of a boutique winery. With total control of the vineyards, Pio Cesare began offering single vineyard wines.

Wine lovers can enjoy the Pio Cesare crus of Barolo Roncaglie (La Morra), Barolo Ornato (Serralunga d’Alba) and Barolo Mosconi (Monforte d’Alba).

Pio Boffa admits that these single vineyard wines are indeed complex and impressive. Yet they are not considered to be their flagship wines.

Rather, it is the ‘classic’ Barolo – a blend of five different communes that is the estate’s best wine. Each commune imparts the following characteristics

  • Serralunga d’Alba (vineyards of Cascina Ornato, La Serra and Briccolina) – structure and longevity
  • Grinzane Cavour (vineyards of Gustava and Garretti) – finesse and body
  • La Morra (Roncaglie vineyard) – elegance and immediacy
  • Novello (Ravera vineyard) – freshness and fruit.
  • Monforte d’Alba (Mosconi vineyard) – structure and power.

With each commune and their single vineyards contributing unique characteristics, the ‘classic’ blended Barolo is the singularly most expressive and memorable wine of the Pio Cesare estate.

The following notes of a ‘vertical-horizontal’ tasting attest to this.

Barolo Roncaglie 2016 (single vineyard barrel sample) – fruity with floral characteristics, dark ripe cherries, dried herbs and a hint of nuts, good structure, long-sweetish finish. Can be enjoyed.


Barolo Ornato 2016 (single vineyard barrel sample)
– Attractive fresh mint and cherry notes, flavoursome with fresh herbs, basil, white pepper. Bigger than previous, almost powerful and mid-length with lingering nuances of eucalyptus.

Barolo Mosconi 2016 (barrel sample) – Fruit and herbs with small fruit dominating; some pepper and lots of spice. Balanced with fruit sweetness, tannic structure and some complexity. Develops in the glass with vanilla overtones. A wine for longer maturation.

Barolo blend of Mosconi 2016, Roncaglie 2016 and Ornato 2016 (possible classic Barolo for 2016) – Reminiscent of a lighter version of Mosconi but quite compex with good fruit, boiled sweets, herbs spices with fine tannins. Potential for the long haul.

Barolo Roncaglie 2015 – Purple edge and dark core. Forward sweet fruit including crushed cherries and hay. Touch of higher alcohol tones add some complexity. Fine structured tannins, ripe and long finished with fruit.

Barolo Ornato 2015 – Sweet ripe cherries, plums and black fruit. Meaty characteristics. Luscious with stronger tannins and creamy finish.

Barolo Mosconi 2015 – Complex with crushed cherries, ripe fruit as well as cooked fruit underlined with leather tones. Blackcurrant flavours with medium tannins and a lifted sweet finish.

Barolo blend of Mosconi, Roncaglie and Ornato, 2015 – Superb balance of fruit (cherries, currants, etc.), tannin, acid and sweetness. Elegant and subtle yet this wine is no pushover. Tannins are fine-grained, ample and the wine has with a long finish. Evident that this wine combines the qualities of the single vineyards in its expression.

Barolo 2013 – Sweet fruit, soft tannins, complex and utterly delicious.

Barolo 2010 – Florals giving way to fruit characters. Perfume of orchids, complexity in the nose and palate with leather and earth. Ultra fine tannins, ready to be savoured. Memorable.

Barolo 2008 – Fruit emerging after perhaps a closed period. Some florals and meat, and starting to show some life. The peak has still to be reached.

Barolo 2004 – Big muscular wine, with coffee, meat, banana and mega-tannins. Thick and textured, with a long finish. Impressive.

Barolo 2000 – Elegant, balanced, fully-flavoured and complex. Soft yet with sticky tannins and a lightly-dry finish. Beautiful drinking. Another favourite.



Berry Brothers & Rudd

Fine Wine and Spirits Merchant, Berry Brothers & Rudd, who have an office in Singapore, held a Grand Portfolio Tasting this August.

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Champagnes & Whites
Amongst the wines tasted, I enjoyed the Thienot Brut for its texture, fruit and ready characters – every bit an excellent Champagne for $95. The house brand Berry’s UKC Rose Grand Cru Marguet was a surprise – many pink Champagnes show good fruit but lack the minerality – but this one has it all.

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How about a 2014 Tavel Rose, Prier de Montezargues – warm, lush with red fruit – and flavours that brought me back to Southern France – and all for $39.
Then there is also a perfumed and beautifully balanced 2012 Domaine de la Renjarde Cotes du Rhone Villages Blanc, similarly priced and every bit as enjoyable.
For oysters and cold seafood – nothing like a crispy lemon-lime pith flavoured 2013 Muscadet sur lie, Domaine la Haute Fevrie ‘Excellence’ – $35 – why look elsewhere?
I also tasted a Benjamin Lerous Auxey Duresses Blanc, a Philippe Colin Chassagne ‘Chevenottes’, a Mirum Verdicchio di Materica Riserva, Mas de Dumas Gassac Blanc and a  sweet Churn Petit Manseng – all delicious.

Reds
So many wines, so little time to taste (1 hours hour had gone by already and 1 hour left…). Red wines I enjoyed were the Olivier Bernstein 2009 Chambolle ‘Les Lavrottes’ as well as the 2003 Collection Bellenum Camille ‘Derriere la Grange’ – both 1er crus of course- yet if you could put gender to the wines, the former was masculine whilst the other, womanly. And for $295 there is a lovely 2003 Louis Remi Latricieres Chambertin – silky, juicy and structured – price wise, its not over the top for a Grand Cru…

Spanish wine lovers should not miss the Riu Trio Infernal by three French winemakers Combier-Fischer-Gerin ( from Crozes Hermitage, Provence and Cote-Rotie respectively) – who decided to make a Grenache-Carignan blend. Its a solid, Priorat big bodied, ripe, powerful yet fruity and balanced, velvety wine – and very good – I say that after having tasting over 35 Spanish wines the previous day.

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Two other wines I loved – the 2008 Paje Roagna Barbaresco – delicate and complex at the same time; and the NZ  2011 Churton Pinot – with beautiful fruit and texture, yet not overtly fruity like many NZ and New World Pinots; rather with some Burgundian restraint and structure.

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Fortified & Others
An oxidised, nutty with good lingering acidity wine form the Jura – the 2010 Domaine Grand  Cotes du Jura Savagnin – was calling out for some Lobster Amoricaine to accompany.

And to end – well, a Berry’s William Pickering 20 year old Tawny which I am told is a Quinta da Noval cuvee – with nuts and red fruit in the forefront and delectable sweetness and complexity.  Wait- there was also a Madeira – the Berry’s Rainwater 5 year old Medium dry that was lush and gushing with Chinese New Year fruit – preserved longan, dried plums and the like.

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I enjoy the occasional aged rum and here before me, just near the exit, were five rums that heralded a taste. I promptly got the required portions poured out and retreated to a corner of the room for a taste of the amazingly unique rums. Here are the notes – some descriptors given by a few passerby’s that decided to partake as well…

2000 Berry’s Own Selection Guyana Rum 15 year old – crispy crushed mixed fruit, raisins, plums and all.
NV Berry’s Own Selection Jamaican Rum Genex 13 year old – forward notes of bush salad, overripe pineapple and tropical fruit
NV Berry’s Own Fijian Rum – Lots of wood – raw pine with nangka, jackfruit, over the top pungency – totally characterful
NV The Pink Pigeon, Mauritian Rum – Creme caramel, balanced, sweet and smooth – will woo whisky and cognac drinkers over
NV Berry’s Own Selection Barbados Rum 10 year old – Fruit, caramel, glutinous rice, dates and some sea salt
( Note: for newly converted rum lovers – like myself – Berry’s offers other rums  – from Haiti, Guadeloupe, Nicaragua, Venezuela and more – imagine having these with single estate chocolates such as those from Amedei)

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After, I looked forlornly at the other spirits yet to be tasted – the Pot Distilled Junipero Gin,  the Hophead Vodka and Karlssons Gold Vodka from Sweden –  but I had had enough for the day – they would have to be tasted next time.

Tips on Sipping, Staying and Playing in Wine Country

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SIP: Lake County is home to more than 30 wineries and 160 growers.  Browse this list of Lake County wineries or printable map.  Or use the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by amenities such as tours, gardens, picnic areas, food for purchase and more.  A few starters: with four tasting rooms on Main Street, the town of Kelseyville offers a fun, leisurely way to enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting.  And there are about a dozen wineries to discover in and near the volcanic hillsides of the Red Hills American Viticultural Area along with spectacular views of Mt. Konocti, a dormant towering volcano.

STAY: Lake County’s charming accommodation options include small inns and hotels, lakeside cottages, winery properties and even vintage railroad cabooses.  For more information visit lakecountywineries.org or lakecounty.com.

 

PLAY:  Chocolate lovers should check out Wine & Chocolate on Feb. 6.  This charity fundraiser for the Lake County Family Resource Center features Lake County wineries pouring their fabulous wines under one roof as well as wine and olive oil sensory classes.  Another great time to visit Lake County is during the 2016 Lake County Wine Adventure May 20–22.  The Gala kick-off evening May 20 is followed by a two-day passport adventure with 25-plus wineries offering wine, food pairings, music and fun. 

Outdoor enthusiasts will find much to do in Lake County.  A hiker’s paradise, it offers 100 miles of trails to explore including Mt. Konocti County Park, part of the Mendocino National Forest and many more.  Fishing, camping and birding are also popular pursuits here.  Clear Lake was designated as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society long ago because it serves as a vital resting spot for migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway.  Take an Eyes of the Wild pontoon boat tour or join the Heron Days Boat Tours this spring (usually April or May), where the local Audubon Society points out Great Blue Herons and other amazing avians.  Biking also is big here, boasting 11 Konocti Trails.

MAKE: Crafty types can draw inspiration visiting California’s first Quilt Trail, featuring 79 painted quilt squares on highly visible barns and buildings throughout Lake County.  Enjoy local wines while learning to paint with oil or join the fun at a Wineglass Painting Party on Jan. 31, just a few of the events offered at the Lake County Wine Studio.

GROW: Lake County is a thriving agricultural area with winegrapes, pears and walnuts as the three main crops.  Most known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, the region’s moderate climate allows a diverse range of other grape varieties to thrive here including Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Malbec, Barbera and Syrah.  Sustainable winegrowing efforts are central to Lake County’s approach.  To support and enhance Lake County vineyards, the Lake County Winegrape Commission has two programs to assist growers.  The Master Vigneron Program (MVP) provides education and training to vineyard managers and foremen in leading industry viticultural practices and leadership.  Growers and vintners also participate in the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program to adopt best practices for high wine and grape quality that benefit the environment and community.

EAT: Where winegrapes grow, olives are often found nearby.  Lake County is gaining a reputation for award-winning olive oils.  Discover the products of The Villa Barone, located on a 160-acre ranch that also offers weekend immersion experiences.  Or enjoy olive oil samples, wine tasting, hula hooping and even an olive pit spitting contest at the Kelseyville Olive Festival April 24.

In 2015, Lake County produced 40 percent of the pears that were sold on the fresh market in California.  Taste why they are so popular at the Kelseyville Pear Festival, held the last Saturday of September.  For artisanal goat cheese, visit the Bodega & Yerba Santa Goat Dairy in Lakeport for a farm tour and tasting; phone ahead for a reservation at 707/263-8131.

Visit discovercaliforniawines.com for information on wine regions, wines and wineries throughout the Golden State and for planning a trip to California wine country.  California is the number one U.S. state for wine and food tourism with dozens of distinct wine regions, 136 American Viticultural Areas and 4,400 wineries that produce 85 percent of U.S. wine. Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy association of nearly 1,000 California wineries.  See: wineinstitute.org.   

A world of flavours – NZ Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc (SB) – they all taste the same dont they?
Certainly at blind tastings, SB’s are easily recognised for their aromatic, pungent aromas and flavours of lime, grass, green apple, green bell pepper and passionfruit…. Yet, delve into a handful of well made SB’s from around the world and you will discover a world of tastes.

Asian Wine Lexicon lists some of the unique aromas/flavours : soursop, starfruit, lemongrass, chives, mungbean and smoked tea alongside the usual guava, basil, gooseberry, peach and boxwood.

 

NZSB

Last week, NZ Wine showcased SB’s from all over the country and I was amazed at the differences amongst the SB’s – call it terroir, soil or climatic conditions / winemaking technique but each wine was memorable with a certain personality and character.

Here’s what I mean (tasting notes) by diversity of tastes!:

Seifried SB 2015 from Nelson the sunniest region of NZ – intense with red apples, Chinese pear, herbs, lime and savoury tastes

Amisfield SB 2015 from Central Otago (gravel over loam) , the southernmost region of NZ – passionfruit, grapefruit, crisp with a round sweetish aftertaste

Astrolabe SB 2015 from Awatere Valley (loam over greywacke alluvium) Marlborough, the largest SB producing region – lemongrass, basil leaf, chives, ripe starfruit  and ripe lemons

The Ned SB 2014 from Marlborough – Complex, multi-flavours with tomato leaf and and some Kaffir lime leaf with mungbean

Greywacke Wild SB 2013 from Marlborough – Spicy peppery with steely/smoky tea and fruit nuances

TerraVin Te Ahu SB 2012 from Marlborough – Oak aged with buttery vanilla toast overtones and some beans and green beans and asparagus; with the texture of course.

Various other wines were also available for tasting. Here are some pics.

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-1FullSizeRender-6FullSizeRender-4If you wish to find out about NZ wines – click here for NZ Wine

Masamiya Gourmet

Fresh seafood, delivered to your doorstep by Miya who brings in produce from Japan twice a week. Over the last few months, we have had the opportunity to taste various tuna (from Bluefin to Bigeye). Here are the pics of Buri (wild) as compared to Hamachi and my attempt at buri sashimi and tuna poke. Contact Masamiya Gourmet here.FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-3A recent seminar on Fisheries and food from Ishikawa and Fukui Prefactures was organised by Masamiya Gourmet.  Rather than tell you about what I learned, here are some Did You Knows

Did you know that

a. Snow crabs from Ishikawa pref. are called Kanou and the crabs are caught during Nov-March. Female crabs are called Koubako and the season for the females end on 29th December.

b. Yellowtail fished in winter in Ishikawa pref. are called Kan-Buri and this is the time when they are at their fattest.

c. The snow crab in the Fukui pref. are known as Echizen (male) and Seiko (female).

d. Echizen Shimp denotes a rare shrimp from Fukui pref. that are even sweeter than the famous Akaebi sweet shrimp.

 

Here are some pics of the seminar held at Kanda Wadatsumi restaurant in Tras Street. No doubt we enjoyed the sake as well!

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