Unique Pinot pairings at select restaurants highlight Sokol Blosser

- December 11th, 2014

Pinot Noir can be  a very versatile wine. I’ve had it paired with everything from pork to duck to beef, and it’s also very good with simple dishes like bruschetta or pasta or game hens.

One ingredient I also think it does quite well with is salmon, especially vintages with more fruit on the palate — they can cut through the fattiness of the fish.

That pairing is on display for a few days at select Edmonton and Calgary restaurants, which are featuring signature salmon dishes with the Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, in support of the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society.

Sokol Blosser is one of the oldest Oregon wineries, and has been producing great quality Pinot Noir for some time.

The Dundee Hills offers notes of black cherry and raspberry, but with earthy undertones, which makes for great pairings with salmon.

The signature dishes have been created by the chefs at Bothy Wine & Whisky Bar in Edmonton (both locations), as well as Q Haute Cuisine and La Chaumiere in Calgary. Proceeds from the sale of Dundee Hills Pinot Noir will go to CPAWS.

“We are thrilled to be introducing this exciting new campaign to consumers across Western Canada,” said Adam Evans, National Sr. Brand Manager, Wine Division, PMA Canada Ltd.

“We are always in search of ways to enhance the wine drinking experience for our consumers across the country. The Dundee Hills Pinot Noir is truly best–in-class. Enjoying it on its own is definitely a treat for any wine connoisseur, and we look forward to having consumers experience its flavours as they are enhanced alongside the various wild salmon appetizers, each prepared by some of the best chefs in the country.”

Alison Sokol Blosser, Co-President, CEO and Second Generation Winegrower, Sokol Blosser Winery adds:. “It’s exciting to work with these chefs to bring the flavours of Pinot Noir and salmon to life to consumers across the country.”

The best of the pairings from the restaurants — which also includes notable Vancouver eatery Vij’s, plus three others in B.C. — will be announced in January.

Alberta craft beer makers come together for 2014 Unity Brew

- December 9th, 2014

Unity-Brew-InviteAlberta’s craft beer scene is truly a community. 

As the number of breweries grow, so does competition, but having more people interested in the products they put out benefits them all.

This sense of community led to the formation of the Alberta Small Brewers Association, and also to the collaboration beer known as the Unity Brew.

Beer makers from the association have gotten together in past years to brew up something special as a team.

And while in the past, this beer was only available on tap at select bars and at member breweries, the 2014 Unity Brew, being launched in Edmonton Dec. 9, will be available across the province.

The team met at Wild Rose Brewery in Calgary in October to make the brew, and “after an ample aging period” it’s being released this week.

The beer they opted for this year is an India Pale Lager, “specifically designed to be crisp and hoppy for the winter season.”

The beer launched in Calgary at Craft Beer Market on Monday, and launches Tuesday at Craft in Edmonton.

It will hit store shelves soon.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society launches in Edmonton

- November 26th, 2014

Having recently located to Edmonton, there were a few things about Calgary I knew I was going to miss:

1. Peters Drive In

2. Village Brewery beer

3. The ability to attend Scotch Malt Whisky Society tastings

While I still need to take a road trip for a growler from Village or shakes and onion rings from Peters, I am very happy to let you know that the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, based in Calgary, has partnered with an Edmonton retailer to bring the great single-cask whiskies to the City of Champions.

With dozens of members here in Edmonton, and retail partnerships in Vancouver and Victoria, it was really only a matter of time before members got a chance to buy the scotch straight from a store.

The partnership launched this fall, and featured the first Edmonton Outturn tasting Nov. 7 at Keg n Cork on 99 St. just south of the Whitemud.

The store alone was a pleasant discovery for me, as I looked for a great independent liquor store near where I lived, and the SMWS partnership sealed the deal for me.

While the owners at Keg n Cork are working on slowly increasing the amount of Society whisky in stock, due to smaller member numbers here compared to Calgary, there will be quarterly Outturn events and occasional drop-in tastings for members when new stock comes in.

For the uninitiated, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a world-wide group devoted to blind-labelled (though the bottling codes are easy to figure out) single-cask whisky selected by a tasting panel at HQ in Scotland.

Membership gets you exclusive access to purchase the Society bottlings, as well as tickets to the special Outturn tastings, giving you a chance to sample before you buy. New members also receive a kit that includes three small bottles of the special whisky.

For more information, check out smws.ca, or pop into Keg n Cork.

Top 10 items to check out at Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival Edmonton

- October 24th, 2014

We’re mere hours away from the Edmonton edition of the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival, the two day extravaganza that features not just wine and food, but also the best in beer, whisky and spirits from around the world.

As Liz Horner, senior event co-ordinator, tells me, the sampling smorgasbord is really “a great place to try before you buy.”

“We have 187 booths, 152 wineries from 15 countries, 48 breweries and 28 different restaurants and food vendors,” she said.

Not to mention bourbon, vodka, liquers, scotch, and even moonshine.

New for this year, Horner says, is the “Great Big Taste Awards,” which is tied into the festival App.

“Anyone can take part by downloading the app and starring the products as they sample them,” she said.

At the end of the festival, the ratings will be tallied.

This is arguably the biggest event of its kind in Edmonton, and tickets are still available for all three sessions — Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. Tickets get you in the door, while sample tokens — which run 50 cents apiece — will get you food and beverage samples.

But with so much on offer, there’s no way you can sample everything.

My two pieces of advice would be to narrow your focus to one thing, red wine or craft beer for example, or just pledge to try only things you’ve never had before.

Or, you could run down and find my 10 picks for the festival:

1. Field Stone Fruit Wines: This Alberta-based fruit winery has been making delicious wines out of saskatoons, strawberries, cherries and more for years, and doing it really well.

2. Fallentimber Meadery: Another Alberta outfit, this was one of the first in the province to jump on this medieval favourite, and they’re making both dry and sweet offerings.

3. Stone Brewing Co.: This Southern California favourite was just released in Alberta and B.C. to much fanfare in the craft beer scene. Come check out what all the buzz is about.

4. Glenfarclas whisky: There are many great scotch whiskies on offer this year — including Balvenie, Macallan and Springbank to name a few — but Glenfarclas has a delicious, distinctive range of whiskies that are all worth trying.

5. Stoneleigh Vineyards: A great New Zealand winery. If they have any of the Latitudes line on offer, I’d recommend the Pinot Noir.

6. Craft Beer Market: You can’t drink all night without food, right? Craft is known for it’s tasty menu as well as its extensive beer selection.

7. Ribstone Creek Brewery: In addition to the Ribstone Lager, this rural Alberta craft beer maker will be pouring a pair of tasty offerings: The Lone Bison IPA and the Old Man Winter Porter. All three are worth a taste.

8. Woodford Reserve Bourbon: Great in a Manhattan, but equally delicious on its own, this is premium small batch Kentucky Bourbon.

9. Sortilege: According to its website, Sortilege is a blend of Canadian whisky and maple syrup. Need I say more?

10. Mission Hill Family Estates: Yes, they’re one of the biggest names out of the Okanagan, and for good reason. If you haven’t tried what Mission Hill is making in a while, take the opportunity while you can.

Happy sampling!

Glenmorangie Companta is friendship in a bottle

- October 24th, 2014

The Glenmorangie Companta, the fifth bottling in the Private Edition, is available in Alberta stores now.

While it may not be the healthiest thing to befriend your whisky, you’d be hard-pressed to find better companionship in a bottle than the latest Private Edition from Glenmorangie: Companta.

The fifth release in the Private Edition range, Glenmorangie Companta is now available in Alberta, and is destined to sell quickly, both due to its price point and overall quality.

The press materials for the Companta play up that the name means “friendship” in Gaelic. And, as far as beverages go, it has the feeling of a good friendship. It’s a pairing of whisky matured in two types of French wine casks: Grand Cru casks from Clos de Tart and Rasteau fortified wine casks from the Rhone Valley.

“As a true wine aficionado, some of my most memorable visits have been to the vineyards of Burgundy, where the dedication and attention to detail that goes into their craft never ceases to amaze me,” Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling for Glenmorangie, says.

Glenmorangie has done good work in crafting a line of whiskies that includes several expressions finished in different wine casks: Quinta Ruban, in ruby port pipes; Nectar D’Or, in Sauternes casks; the 25 Years Old, which is matured in a range of casks, including French Burgundy. Previous Private Edition Artein was finished in ‘Super Tuscan’ wine barrels.

Also, two of the options in the Cask Masters process were Burgundy and Bordeaux.

This track record of using wine barrels to much success in maturing or finishing their whiskies should be an indication of Lumsden’s ability to use the characteristics of the barrels to produce a quality scotch. And, to be honest, I was kind of disappointed the Burgundy cask didn’t make it to market after the Cask Masters competition, so I’m pleased to see this expression.

Colour: Deep bronze, with a red tinge to it.

Nose: The tasting notes for Companta talks about ‘red berries and damp forest floors’, as well as woodsmoke and oak. I picked up on the berries and the wood, but not as much of the smoke. I also noticed a deep orange aroma.

Palate: The orange on the nose carried over to the palate. There’s blood orange and chocolate and brown sugar. It’s a lot of sweetness, but there’s a balancing svaoury qualities, including peppery spice, saltiness and oak. It is really complex, and with a few drops of water it brings out the orange, and some vanilla.

Finish: It has a lingering finish that coats your mouth with hints of cherries. Almost a jammy quality.

The verdict: All told, I think this is an amazingly complex whisky that verges on the sweet side without going overboard. It’s especially well-priced for the quality, retailing at about $120 a bottle. But if you’re looking for a place to try a wee dram before you head to the liquor store, The Bothy Wine & Whisky Bar in Edmonton has it on their menu.

In Googling the word companta, I found another apt definition for the word ‘companta’

It also means sociable.

Which is fitting, because this is the kind of whisky you want to share with your best mates.

Even if you want to keep all of its deliciousness to yourself.