Wine expert Anthony Gismondi highlights a few of the Californian luminaries attending the 2019 Vancouver International Wine Festival.
California wine ambassadors Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset lead a long list of Golden State wine personalities that will be in town all next week at the Vancouver International Wine Festival.
Today we highlight a few of the visitors, and a wine that they have made globally famous. Our selections are based on whether the wine is generally available in B.C. retail outlets, be they private wine shops or government outlets.
• Jean-Charles Boisset, proprietor of Boisset Collection, was born into the world of wine in Vougeot, Burgundy, France. Under his leadership, the Boisset Collection operates 24 wineries in California, France, and Canada.
JC, as he is widely known, has been on the Decanter magazine “Power List” of the 50 most important people in the wine world each year of its publication since 2007.
Recommended wine: JC Boisset 2016 Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France ($23.99).
• Gina Gallo, vice-president of winemaking, estate wines for E. & J. Gallo topped off her wine studies under the careful guidance of her grandfather Julio Gallo, and today is the winemaker behind the Gallo Signature Series where she carves out specific block selections from Gallo’s most sought-after vineyards to hand-craft limited, batch wine.
Recommended wine: Louis Martini 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon ($35.99)
• Bob Blue, founding winemaker of Bonterra Organic Vineyards in 1990, was mentored by legendary “green” California winemakers Paul Dolan and Dennis Martin and is considered a pioneer in organic and biodynamic grape-growing and winemaking. If you think green Blue’s booth is a must stop.
Recommended wine: Bonterra 2017 Chardonnay, Mendocino ($19.99)
• Austin Hope, winemaker and president of Hope Family Wines, is one of the current forces behind the growing reputation of Paso Robles wines. He graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in fruit science, and worked with Caymus founder Chuck Wagner in Napa before returning to the family winery, putting the Treana brand on the map and powering up Hope Family Wines. Hope
Recommended wine: Family Wines 2015 Treana Blanc, Paso Robles ($42, private wine shops).
• Joel Peterson, the founder of Ravenswood Winery, is the godfather of California Zinfandel and the man behind the slogan “No Wimpy Wines.” Petersen is a fountain of knowledge on old vines, dry-farming, and where the best Zinfandel is grown in California, not to mention an absolute pleasure to taste with especially if it involves his old-vine, single-vineyard Zins.
Recommended wine: Ravenswood 2015 Zinfandel Dickerson Vineyard, Napa Valley, ($43.99)
Randy Ullom, wine master at Kendall-Jackson, studied crop production with a specialty in viticulture and oenology at Ohio State University. Hired by Jess Jackson 27 years ago to steer the ship, Ullom is perhaps the most complete winemaker in California. His kingdom is coastal and hillside vineyards and includes more than 14,000 such acres across the state. He is the king of Chardonnay, having kept KJ Vintners Reserve Chardonnay on the No. 1 best selling list for a quarter century.
Recommended wine: Kendall-Jackson 2016 Chardonnay Vintner’s Reserve ($21.99)
• Karl Wente is a fifth generation winemaker and wine grower who grew up working at Wente Vineyards, but the family story goes back to 1883 when German immigrant C.H. Wente studied winemaking under Charles Krug in Napa Valley. Eventually he bought 47 acres just east of San Francisco in the Livermore Valley where ultimately he was responsible for bringing in a Chardonnay clone from Burgundy in 1912 that is the source material for 80 per cent of American Chardonnay plantings today.
Recommended wine: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2016, Livermore, San Francisco Bay ($19.99)
• Chief winemaker Genevieve Janssens of Robert Mondavi makes a rare stop in Vancouver with sidekick, educator and MW Mark DeVere, appropriately closing four decades of wine festivals first begun by founding festival chairman John Levine and the Mondavi family back in 1979.
Recommended wine: Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valle ($59.99)
See you in the room.
Weekend wine picks
Fort Berens Reserve Riesling 2017, Lillooet
$22.99 | 89/100
This new reserve Riesling is sourced entirely from Fort Berens’ estate vineyard in Lillooet. After whole cluster pressing, it was cool fermented for seven weeks in stainless steel before spending nine months in bottle before release. Juicy, potent pear flesh, mandarin, lime, on a full rich palate, one shaped by limy sherbet to a snappy finish. Off-dry and frisky it comes with perfect balance and a modicum of complexity. Well done; a lovely solo sipper.
Bartier Bros. Chardonnay Cerqueira Vineyard 2016, Okanagan Valley
$19.99 | 89/100
The Cerqueira Vineyard is located on the Black Sage Terrace just southeast of the town of Oliver. Winemaker Michael Bartier hand-harvested his Chardonnay on Sept. 27 from the sparse granite glacial till with widely occurring calcium sulphate precipitates — think minerality. There is no wood here, but 5 months in stainless steel in contact with its lees adds texture and length to this stylish Chardonnay. Look for a band of fruit scents including apple, peach and pineapple with just enough flinty, smoky, leesy notes to keep pulling you back to the wine. The is New Okanagan.
Rodney Strong Chardonnay Chalk Hill 2016, Chalk Hill, Russian River, Sonoma County, California, United States
$26.95 | 90/100
The in-house high-end Chardonnay program is permeating the breadth of Rodney Strong Chardonnays leading with less obvious oak and fruit replaced by more texture and complexity. The light, volcanic, white ash soil of the Chalk Hills appellation is at the centre of this bright juicy, mineral, pear/apple, Meyer lemon, fruit flavoured Chardonnay with creamy, mineral, nutty, wet stone undertones. Crab, halibut, mahi mahi, whole roasted chicken, and French Brie all work here.
Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir Leyda Estate 2017, Valle de Leyda, Valle de San Antonio, Region de Aconcagua, Chile
$10.99 | 87/100
We thought this was a good buy at $13.99, but it’s a steal at $10.99. Spice, ripe fruit and soft textures that deliver well beyond this Pinot’s price point. The fruit comes off the cool hillsides of the Coastal Mountain Range and one quarter is fermented in open vats. Floral, dill, cedar, raspberry previews red cherries, rhubarb and pepper. Good freshness in a round, mouth filling, affordable, party Pinot. Back up the truck.
Van Westen Vineyards V 2015, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
$35 | 88/100
The V, or Roman numeral five, is a blend of five Naramata grapes from two vineyards all within 2km of the winery. The 49/17/16/9/9/ mix of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot come together in a sweet, spicy, floral black-fruited red that finishes long and warm with savoury balsamic notes. It’s the 7th release of this label, and while it’s intense, it’s lost a bit of its sophistication in what was a very warm growing season where the alcohol tends to dominate. Our advice is wait five years, or enjoy now with a rare steak or leg of lamb. Winery direct private wine shops.
Now that the world is waking up to the curative and slimming powers of dietary fat, Andrea Chesman’s instructive manual The Fat Kitchen should take its rightful place in any serious cookbook collection. Freshly made home-cured lard, tallow and schmaltz deliver both flavour and satiety. Get started with this classic Louisiana-style pork chop.
Smothered Pork Chops
3 cups (750 mL) water
1/4 cup (60 mL) fine sea salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 cups (500 mL) ice cubes
3 bay leaves
1 tsp (5 mL) allspice berries
1 tsp (5 mL) black peppercorns
4 bone-in pork chops, 3/4–1 inch thick
1/2 cup (125 mL) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) fine sea salt
2 tsp (10 mL) garlic powder
1 tsp (5 mL) onion powder
1 tsp (5 mL) smoked paprika
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground white pepper
1/2 cup (100 g) any animal fat (lard is recommended)
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 cups (500 mL) pork or chicken broth
1/2 cup (125 mL) buttermilk
Stir 1 cup (250 mL) water with salt and sugar in a glass vessel. Microwave just until the salt and sugar dissolve. Stir in 2 cups water, ice cubes, bay leaves, allspice, and peppercorns, and cool to 45°F (7 C) or lower. Put pork chops in a glass baking dish, add brine and cover dish. Refrigerate for about 2 hours. Discard the brine, and pat the chops dry.
Combine flour, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and black and white pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge each chop in the flour. Set the chops on a wire rack and reserve the excess seasoned flour.
Melt fat in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot, brown chops on each side for about 3 minutes. Set aside.
To make gravy, reduce heat to medium, add onions and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add reserved seasoned flour to the skillet and cook until the flour is toasted to a golden brown, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in the buttermilk. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Return chops to skillet and simmer just until the chops are cooked through, 5 to 15 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.
A busy pork chops dish pushes us toward medium weight reds to stand up to all the flavours.
Rabble Red Wine 2015, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, California, United States, $23.95
Intense, vibrant black fruit and cedar with mocha undertones and warm spicy, rustic black cherry flavours should easily complement the pork.
Hester Creek Block 3 Reserve Cabernet Franc 2016, Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley, $28.95
Cassis, wild blackberry and violets mingle with structured tannins and a core of juicy cool black plum fruit providing plenty of push back for this dish.
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