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Saturday, October 23, 2021

* FOOD BOOK OF THE MONTH: Amber & Rye by Zuza Zak, Interlink Books, 2021

AMBER & RYE; a Baltic food journey (Interlink Books, 2021, 256 pages, $45 hard covers) is by Zuza Zak, an award-winning Polish "storyteller cook" who has published books and articles dealing with Eastern Europe as her beat. She has also appeared on the Food Network. Her PhD studies are focused on exploring Eastern European food from a socio-cultural perspective, as a cultural anthropologist would. The Baltics are between Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, with many culinary influences. There is also a confluence with Poland bordering Lithuania (she's got some Baltic DNA in her). So here she's got guidance around the capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, with local stories from the chefs, the cooks, the greengrocers, the farmers. In addition to the stories on food and travel, she's also incorporated poetry, literature, song, and proverbs. The arrangement is loosely by course, from apps through snacks, soup, mains, salads, sides, fermented foods,  desserts and beverages. There are extensive notes on ingredients and a bibliography for further reading. Typical preps are rhubarb and rose meringue tart, potato-fennel-fish bake, charred pork chop with apple and sea buckthorn sauce, fermented beet slaw, crayfish salad, creamy barley groats with asparagus, fermented wild garlic and buckwheat soup, and nettle leaf salad. Quality/price rating: 90.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

* DRINK BOOK OF THE MONTH: Beer & Veg by Mark Dredge (Dog 'n' Bone 2021)

1.BEER & VEG; combining great craft beer with vegetarian and vegan food (Dog 'n' Bone, 2021, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-912983-40-7 $34.99 hardbound) is by Mark Dredge, who has authored other beer books such as "Craft Beer World", "Beer and Food" and "Cooking with Beer". He recently switched to a veggie diet, so it was the perfect time to start up a book dealing with beer and veggies. Some of the contents deal with what craft beer is all about, notably through the styles of beer you are likely to encounter, and these are together with food pairing notes. He then turns it around with notes on beer pairing for various courses and cuisines (e.g. blueberry pancakes with Imperial stout, avocado on toast with Pacific pale ale or Belgian blonde, southwestern tofu scramble and breakfast potatoes with Session IPA or Witbier). He also includes desserts of cherry pie, peach cobbler, apple strudel, sticky toffee pudding, crème brulee, and lemon and olive oil cake. The balance of the book is the recipe section: breads, brunch, mains, sides, snacks, baking, desserts. Most of the preps are vegetarian; all have a vegan option, and the rest can be easily converted from vegetarian to vegan. So it is meatless but with some egg/dairy/honey. It's a needed book, well-worth a look into. Preparations have their ingredients listed mostly in avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Try the beer naan bread, beer marinara sauce, Dubbel drunken noodles, chickfu burger and sambar ketchup. Quality/Price Rating: 92.

Monday, October 11, 2021



By DEAN TUDOR, Gothic Epicures Writing My "Wines, Beers and Spirits of the Net", a guide to thousands of news items and RSS feeds, plus references to wines, beers and spirits, has been at since 1994.

These notes for good wines available through  LCBO Vintages (on a bi-weekly basis)  can always be found at  or at No winery can buy their way into – or out of – this publication.
Scores are a combination of MVC (Modal Varietal Character, e.g. a Southern Rhone would taste like a Southern Rhone) and QPR (Quality/Price Ratio value in the marketplace above or below its price).
Currently, the wine media have no access to the tasting samples usually provided to us in the LCBO lab on a fortnightly basis. This will go on or some time. HOWEVER,  the wine media will still have access to the advance spreadsheet of the wines to be released. So I know what is to be released and when. SOME (but not many) of these 100 or so biweekly released wines I have recently tasted since January 2020 or so, and I can comfortably recommend them based on this prior sampling.
** Some New Wines I Tasted Over the Past Fortnight ---

Chateau des Charmes Pinot Noir Estate Bottled Old Vines 2017 VQA NOTL, +256834, $24.95 (at winery and online): I think that this is the first de Charmes' "Old Vines" Pinot in some time (maybe 2012?). Quite a powerful wine (the 2007 was a Cuvee winner), lots of forest floor (mushrooms, earth) to complement the dynamic red berry fruit. Grapes come from their St David's Bench block, the oldest vineyard they have. It could still use some time(I tasted at home over a few days). High acidity but low tannins. 1.7 g/L residual sugar. 13% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

Jackson-Triggs White Meritage Grand Reserve 2020 VQA Niagara Peninsula, +360297, $25.95 Vintages, online, Wine Rack, winery: this is the classic Bordeaux blend of sauvignon blanc (80%) and semillon (20%). It is almost never made in Ontario, but it has been made occasionally at Jackson-Triggs, when the circumstances were right. Previous vintages I have enjoyed included the 2017 and the 2012. But in 2012, the blend was 70% sauvignon blanc (with 10% of the savvy being barrel fermented in French oak) and 30% semillon, and the price was a dollar less. This time (2020) all of the semillon went into older French oak after extended skin contact. Herbs and honey dominate the flavour profiles, with stone fruit and grapefruit accents augmenting some tropicality. It will also reveal longer depth after more bottle aging of a year or so. Best with seafood – indeed, I had it with a Hooked stuffed sea bream and fishcuterie plate of a half dozen denizens. Long finish. Residual sugar is a low 3g/L. 13% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

** A Recent Wine Book I Reviewed ---

WINE FROM ANOTHER GALAXY (Quadrille, 2020, 354 pages, $65 hardbound) is by Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew, MW, co-founders of Noble Rot magazine and restaurants in Bloomsbury and Soho. They also own a wine importer, Keeling Andrew & Co. It's an unusual wine book, based on  their writings in Noble Rot magazine. Part one is the "Shrine to the Vine" with primer-like detail on how wine is made, noble grapes, how wine ages,  wine cellars, desert island wine lists. How to serve wine, how to order wine in a restaurant, even a hilarious  alternative wine aroma wheel. Part two is the road trip travel through Europe – the people and places behind their fave wines: France, Hibernia, Italy, Germany, Greece, ending with English sparklers. And it ends with a listing of their top wines, about 99% of which are from France (who knew?). An interesting book for the millennial wine lover. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

** Some recommended  wines from the LCBO's Limited Time Offers selections...these are good value (see below)...on sale  through Sunday November 7...
[red] +59311 7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel was $24.95, now $21.95, save $4 to Nov 7.
[red splurge]  CHÂTEAU PIPEAU SAINT-ÉMILION GRAND CRU VINTAGES +302018  WAS: $43.95 | NOW: $ 39.95 | SAVE: $ 4.00  to Nov 7.
[white]  FLAT ROCK RIESLING Niagara VQA VINTAGES +43281 WAS: $ 17.95 | NOW: $ 15.95 | SAVE: $ 2.00  to Nov 7.
[Christmas port] TAYLOR FLADGATE 20-YEAR-OLD TAWNY PORT Portugal VINTAGES +149047 | WAS: $ 69.95 | NOW: $ 62.95 | SAVE: $ 7.00 to Nov 7

Wines Under $20
W+22275    MIGUEL TORRES VIÑA SOL ORIGINAL DO Catalunya 2019 $11.95 MVC/QPR: 89.
Fizz+48801    LOUIS BOUILLOT PERLE D'IVOIRE BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE    Traditional method, AC, Burgundy, France        $19.95    MVC/QPR:  93.
Rose+11234    GÉRARD BERTRAND CÔTE DES ROSES ROSÉ    AP Languedoc, France    2020    $10.95 half-bottle  MVC/QPR: 90.
W+68015    FLAT ROCK UNPLUGGED UNOAKED CHARDONNAY    Sustainable, VQA Niagara Peninsula    2020    $17.95      MVC/QPR: 89.
R+371112    MORANDÉ GRAN RESERVA CARMENÈRE    Single vineyard, Valle del Maipo    2019    $16.95     MVC/QPR:  89.
R+272575    GÉRARD BERTRAND GRAND TERROIR TAUTAVEL    AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages    2018    $19.95      MVC/QPR:  90.
R+574780    DEMUERTE    DO Yecla    2018    $19.95  MVC/QPR: 91.

Wines Over $20
Fizz+924654    GARDET CUVÉE TRADITION SAINT FLAVY BRUT CHAMPAGNE    Chigny-les-Roses, AC, France        $46.95  MVC/QPR:  90.
Fizz+15687    GRUET SAUVAGE BLANC DE BLANCS SPARKLING    Zero dosage, traditional method, USA        $28.95     MVC/QPR:  89,
W+264945    PASCAL JOLIVET SANCERRE    AC    2020    $39.95  MVC/QPR: 91.
R+187369    REMO FARINA AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO    In wooden gift box, DOC, Veneto, Italy    2018    $92.95      MVC/QPR: 89.
R+384578    REMO FARINA AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA & VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO    Two bottles in wooden gift box, Veneto, Italy    2018    $74.95 MVC/QPR:  89.
R+390872    WOLF BLASS GREY LABEL SHIRAZ    McLaren Vale, South Australia    2018    $34.95   MVC/QPR:  89.
R+616433    HENRY OF PELHAM SPECK FAMILY RESERVE CABERNET/MERLOT    VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment    2019    $39.95      MVC/QPR:  90.
R+570267    FAUSTINO I GRAN RESERVA    DOCa Rioja    2009    $39.95     MVC/QPR:  89.
R+707323    RUSTENBERG JOHN X MERRIMAN    WO Stellenbosch    2019    $24.95 MVC/QPR: 89.
R+21861    MARCHESI DI BAROLO TRADIZIONE BAROLO DUO    Two bottles in wooden gift box, DOCG, Veneto, Italy    2016    $109.95  MVC/QPR: 90

Dean Tudor,  Prof Emeritus Ryerson School of Journalism
Treasurer of Wine Writers' Circle of Canada

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Report on the 2021 Northwest (Washington and Oregon) Wine Expedition Sept 21, 2021

The Date and Time:  Wednesday September 21, 2021  11AM – 12:30PM
The Event: 2021 Northwest Wine Expedition
The Venue: The Globe and Mail Centre
The Target Audience: wine media, sommeliers, wine agents.
The Availability/Catalogue: most wines were available or will be. The event was also a feature for acquiring new agents. The catalogue contained the basics of estate name, website, and Twitter address. There was no agency name, even if the winery had an Ontario agent. Name of the wine was followed by the vintage date and a space for notes. Opening text was confined to photos, maps, climate bar graphs, vineyards, and quality. 75% of Oregon wineries produce fewer than 5,000 cases per year. Similar information appeared for Washington, except that here 90% of all Washington wineries produced under 5,000 cases per year.
The Quote/Background: October 2 was the release date for a highly touted Washington- Oregon spotlight in the Vintages catalogue. Unfortunately, of the seven wineries with wines in the release, only two wineries were in this trade show: Del Rio Vineyards and Chateau Ste. Michelle. So I had no chance at this show to taste any Northwest wines being released on October 2. The show was originally to be held in the spring of 2020 but it was shut down on March 17 along with everything else, to reduce the spread of covid-19. The wines were already in Toronto, so what we tasted this morning were wines principally from 2016-2018, with a few from 2019 and 2020, and some from 2015 as well. I went to the show to taste on1y chardonnays. There were 23 of them from Oregon, and I managed to taste 16 (one wine did not turn up). There six from Washington but I was only allowed to taste one of them. In the organization of the event, we were all seated six feet apart with no masks, while our masked servers and winery principals asked us what we wanted and then delivered it. Halfway through the tasting the show administration decided that we could not taste by varietal but by winery. At that point I had tasted most of the chardonnays, and I did not want anything else.
The Wines: All the chardonnays were remarkably good; we were not given many prices (I guess we had to ask but I had no time to wait for a winery rep). So my ratings are based on taste alone, without consideration for prices and value. Wines in each tier are listed alphabetically by winery name.
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality Rating terms):
-A to Z Wineworks Oregon Chardonnay 2018 [$22.95CAD price volunteered]
-Angela Estate Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2017
-Foris Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay 2018 [$23CAD volunteered]
-Sokol Blosser Winery Estate Dundee Hills Chardonnay 2018 [Nov. Vintages $28]
-Trisaetum Coast Range Estate Chardonnay 2017 [$52CAD price volunteered]
-Trisaetum Coast Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2019 [$39CAD price volunteered]
-Barnard Griffin Washington State Chardonnay 2018
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality Rating terms):
-A to Z Wineworks Rex Hill Seven Soils Chardonnay 2017 [$44.95CAD volunteered]
-Adelsheim Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2019
-Adelsheim Vineyard Staking Claim Chardonnay 2018
-Angela Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2017
-Chateau Bianca Wetzel Estate Chardonnay 2017
-Citation Centerstone Willamette Valley Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2017
-Cristom Vineyards Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay 2019
-Domaine Drouhin Oregon Roserock Chardonnay 2018
-Sokol Blosser Winery Evolution Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2019 [Nov. Vintages]
-Winderlea Winery Chardonnay 2017
The Food: we each got a bento box from Salon by Alo Yorkville. I shared it with my wife when I got home. Coffee came from Hot Black, Queen Street west. The bento box had torched Norwegian salmon, heirloom cherry tomato with burrata, beef tartare and charred eggplant, and a cheesecake dessert. A Northwest cheese course would have been preferable.
The Downside: we were not supposed to taste by grape variety but rather by winery, which limited my interest. I cannot leap from pinot noir to pinot gris to syrah to riesling to chardonnay – and back – within four to eight bottles at a time.
The Upside: this was my first trade show in 19 months; I may have been a little rusty.
The Contact Person: Nicholas Pearce Wines – or
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): very good – 92.