Wine Picks 101

Some time ago, we had the pleasure of attending a dinner party where our friend, Andrew was the “sous chef” for the evening. One of the highlights of that feast was Andrew’s role in presenting each course to us, romancing the food in a way that made this evening a stand out gourmet event! His love of all things culinary does not end there…he is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to completing the food experience with a remarkable wine! Pam and i knew this wine enthusiast and connoisseur was the perfect guy to ask for both his tips and his current faves… here is his take:

Food and wine are not Andrew's only passions! An avid outdoorsman, Andrew sumitted Mt. Kilimanjaro recently with his son, Alex

I often get phone calls from friends – Andrew – I’m going for dinner to a friend’s house – what wine do I buy?  I always say – it depends – I need to be standing in the wine store beside you to see what’s in stock.  There are lots of great wines out there.  How can I help you both impress your friend and not break the bank?

Rather than standing blankly in the wine store and picking up a bottle of E&J Gallo White Zinfandel out of desperation (please, just say no), here’s some helpful guidelines of different varietals that tend to be a great bet from various countries – Argentina: Malbec; Chile: Carmenere.  South America is producing great wines at super value price points.  Malbec is unique to Argentina, and Carmenere unique to Chile – great, full, fruity reds – pick your price point and take a leap of faith.   You’ll impress your friend by coming in with something a little more unique.  Moving around the world, as long as you spend at least $20 it’s hard to find a poor quality Australian Shiraz.  My personal favourite wine region is Washington State – their Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignon consistently blow me away.  I think there is hope for BC to grow big reds – the Washington vines are older than those in the BC wine region so once we get some maturity in the roots, we will get some great big reds coming out of BC.  More on this later.

If you are looking for advice a little more specific than this – here are some of my fave’s:  Washington State – virtually anything from Columbia Crest cannot go wrong.  Try to spend at least US $8.99 (no joke) to get their “estate” series (this assumes you are shopping when you’ve popped south – these wines are $25 in BC).  My current favourites from Columbia Crest is the Estate Series Cabernet Sauvignon, or for couple dollars more – the “H3”.  Columbia Crest wines are consistently on the Wine Spectator top 100 list.  (This factoid will definitely impress your “wine snobby” friends).

Columbia Crest Estate Series Cab


Columbia Crest H3

My favourite Australian wines – Mollydooker bar none.   Molly what you say?  Yes, this is the winery name – another factoid – Mollydooker is slang in Australian for “Left Handed” – so if you have a lefty wine snob friend (they statistically exist), Mollydooker is the way to go.  A little harder on the budget – you can spend $40 ish for “The Boxer” or “Two Left Feet”, or a whole lot more for “Carnival of Love”.  You really have to love your friend for that one.

Mollydooker Image

People often ask – what wine should I serve with this meal?  White, red, rose?   There are so many ‘rules’ out there – and you may notice my preferences lean towards reds.  My rule is this:  On a sunny day, when you are sitting on a patio, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Kim Crawford for example) is the way to go.  The rest of the time, I prefer red.  Drink what you enjoy – that’s the rule that counts.  Most wine snobs agree, and if they don’t – really!?

BC wines often come up in conversation – it’s great to drink local – particularly visiting the Okanagan in summer, and we have some impressive stuff coming out of the Fraser Valley.   If you want BC, here are some great selections.  Sunny summer day – Mission Hill ‘Five Vineyards’ Pinot Grigio is a super fruity fresh white.   A local wine that surprised me recently is the Mt. Lehman Winery Syrah (your wine snob will tell you that a Syrah is the same thing as Shiraz – but Syrah is aged in French oak barrels, and Shiraz in American Oak – sorry – too much information?)   Anyways, I was out cycling recently and came upon this Mt. Lehman winery – a beautiful estate, and a week later I was at an event that served their Syrah – very drinkable – I was pleasantly surprised.  

Mt Lehman Winery ~ Syrah

Township 7 in South Langley (and Naramata) has some unique wines – their unoaked Chardonnay is fun.   Want a unique port?  Vista Doro, also in South Langley makes “Doro” a very unique walnut port.  Serve it with a chocolate dessert.

Vista Doro Port

My last piece of advice that you can debate with your snobby friend (particularly if they are drinking a Pinot Noir) – the movie “Sideways” may have given this grape a bum wrap, but in my opinion the best, most consistent red wine produced in BC right now – Merlot.  Just do it –  and enjoy!  Cheers, Andrew

Thanks, Andrew…i feel more wine savvy already! i’ve got some wine tastings coming my way, i’m thinking…