This past week, the Seacove Group, a wine agency located in Vancouver, brought over 5 winery principals from Europe to show us a range of their wines. Strolling through the cobbled Gastown streets, between restaurants, one could imagine you were in Europe. The winery principals and the participating restaurants, hosting the principals are:
- Champagne de Vonage, Epernay, France, Mr. Gilles de la Bassetiere. Hosted by Cork & Fin
- Domaine Louis Moreau, Chablis, France, Mr. Louis Moreau. Hosted by L’Abattoir
- Azienda Agricola Gulfi, Sicily, Mr. Mattteo Catania. Hosted by Salt Tasting Room
- Van Zeller & Co and Vale Dona Maria, Douro Valley, Portugal, Mr. Christiano Van Zeller. Hosted by Salt Tasting Room
- Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, Sanlucar & Jerez, Spain, Mr. Javier Hidalgo. Hosted by Sardine Can.
Champagne de Vonage
Founded in 1837, the House of de Venoge is situated on the world famous Avenue de Champagne in Épernay, France. They produce all nine styles of champagne: Brut, Brut Millésime, Extra Brut Millésime, Rosé, Blanc de Blancs Millésime, Blanc de Noirs, Cuvée Dry, Demi-Sec, Tête de Cuvée Blanc de Blancs Millésime and Tête de Cuvée Rosé Millésime. Champagnes de Venoge are produced with Premier and/or Grand Cru Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes and the finest Pinot Meunier grapes, of which only the cuvée (the first soft pressing) is used. The blue sash on the label was introduced by King Henry III as a symbol of the order of the Holy Spirit and became tradition to wear in Royal Court and for royal celebrations.
I thought all 4 champagnes I tasted today were of excellent quality, with some for sipping on their own, while others I thought paired very nicely with the food served at Cork & Fin.
- Cordon Bleu Brut Select N/V ($60) – A blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Meunier. Medium intensity aromas with citrus, yeast an oak. High acidity with tiny aggressive bubbles. Lots of red delicious apple flavour followed by light oak and ending with flowers and citrus. A very complex flavour progression.
- Rose Brut N/V (SPEC $73) – A blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Meunier. To make this rose a little red wine is added to the base white wine, that results in it’s orange-copper colour. Light strawberry and oak aromas. Tiny bubbles, almost creamy on the palate. High acidity, bring red cherries and candied cherries flavour followed by oak and red apples. I really liked this champagne with the oysters on the half shell from Cork & Fin.
- Blanc de Noirs N/V (SPEC $75) – A blend of two red grapes 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. A deeper golden colour in the glass. Yeast and nuttiness on the nose. Full body, dry with medium sized bubbles, slightly creamy. On the palate up front was citrus and yeast, followed by flowers and oak. Very good quality!
- Blanc de Blancs 2000 (SPEC $90) – This wine is pure Chardonnay, with 80% of the grapes coming from Grand Cru vineyards. Pale lemon in the glass with watery edge and a more intense colour at the core. Elegant nose of lees, citrus and apple. High acid, medium body, dry with small aggressive bubble. Light apple with hints of citrus, strawberry, and oak on the palate. This champagne also went very nicely with the oysters.
Domaine Louis Moreau
Domaine Louis Moreau is a family estate under the direction of Louis Moreau, son of Jean-Jacques. The Domaine owns its vineyards in five Grand Cru (and one monopole), many of the Première Cru, and in Chablis and Petit Chablis. All 14 properties are managed through natural sustainability. For those unfamiliar with Chablis, the primary grape is Chardonnay.
- AOC Petit Chablis 2011 (SPEC $26) – A very nice flowery nose with some citrus. Light body, dry with medium plus acidity. Some citrus, apple and grapefruit rind on the palate. A wine that should pair very nicely with food.
- AOC Chablis 2011 (SPEC $20) – An interesting nose with aromas of oak, citrus and flint. The flintiness continues to the palate. Medium body, good acidity, dry, with a creamy mouth feel and citrus flavour.
- Premier Cru Les Fourneaux 2010 (SPEC $40) – This wine had a rich stone fruit and honey aromas in the glass. Medium body, very balanced fruit to acidity. Light citrus flavour with a hint of oak. Very elegant.
- Grand Cru Valmur 2008 (SPEC $73) – Very light citrus and vanilla aromas. Light plus body, with vanilla and citrus flavour followed by oak and nutmeg spice. Dry with higher acidity. Mouthwatering finish.
Azienda Agricola Gulfi
The wines from Azienda Agricola Gulfi in Sicily, Italy are produced from the fruit of traditional and bio-organic wine growing and non-invasive vinification. No irrigation and handpicking of the grapes are undertaken. The legend of Eros (Love) and Psyche (Beauty) that are envied by Venus, are obliged to hide their love and meet one another in the dark. From this passion gives rise to Voluptuousness and pleasure. This is a metaphor where Eros is Gulfi, and its love to his wonderful land (Psyche), gives rise to his wines that are pure expression of Pleasure (Voluptuousness).
What I enjoy is trying wines made from grapes other than the common vines from Europe. In this case I tried wines from the Nero d’Avola and the Frappato grapes.
- Nero d’Avola “Rossojbleo” 2011 (SPEC $25) – An interesting nose of sour cherry, fino sherry (or balsamic vinegar) and oak. Dry with a light body. Spicy with cherries, red fruits, and oak on the palate and finishing with some bitter leafiness.
- Nero d’Avola “Nerojbleo” 2009 (SPEC $35) – Lots of aroma from this wine of vanilla and ripe red cherries. Medium plus body, quite spicy up front, followed with lots of cherry fruit and some vanilla. Dry with medium tannic finish.
- Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2011 (SPEC $30) – This wine is a blend of the Frappato and the Nero d’Avola grapes. Another interesting bouquet; this time of flowers and cherries. Similar floweriness on the palate. Light body.
Van Zeller & Co and Vale Dona Maria
Following a long family tradition of over 230 years (the original Van Zeller & Co. was founded in 1780 even though the commercial aspect virtually disappeared after 1930s) Cristiano van Zeller has been making Port Wines in the Douro region since 1982.
Former proprietor of Quinta do Noval, Cristiano van Zeller has always believed that the Douro has more to offer the world than port wine. He encouraged small wine makers and helped them showcase their wines’ unique character and develop a niche. He joined in the adventure himself in the mid-1990s and can now take credit for some of Quinta do Vale Dona Maria’s finest Portuguese reds. The wines are from a single south-facing vineyard owned by Cristiano van Zeller and his wife Joanna Lemos in the famous Rio Torto valley in the heart of the Douro.
- Van Zeller Branco VZ 2010 (Special order $40) – I really enjoyed this wine. It had a light pear aroma. Lighter body, but very round and fruity, with roasted apples, pears, and cinnamon spice on the palate.
- Rufo 2010 (SPEC $19) – A blend of Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional, two indigenous grapes to Portugal. Light cherry vanilla nose. Medium body, dry with medium tannins. Red cherries, candied fruit, flowers and vanilla flavours. Medium length. Not bad.
- Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Douro Tinto 2008 ($40) – Deep ruby in colour with ripe dark fruit and vanilla aromas. Full body, dry and soft mouth feel, with dark chocolate, dark cherries and vanilla, with some floweriness on the palate later. Dry astringent finish. Another wine I really enjoyed.
- Reserve Port Lot 10 (SPEC $30) – I believe Cristiano said that there were approximately 41 different grape varieties that went into this port. Deep ruby in colour with sweet spices, cherries and candied fruit aromas. Medium minus body, off dry, spicy with red cherry flavours. The spice builds as you sip on this wine and let it aerate in your mouth. Medium minus tannins on the finish.
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana
Bodegas Hidalgo is a long-established bodega in Sanlúcar, with its origins in the 18th Century. The Hidalgo family moved from northern Spain to Andalucía at that time and established a salina for the production of salt. The family entered the sherry business in 1792, when José Pantaleón Hidalgo acquired a bodega from his father-in-law. Since that time, the business has remained a family concern, passed through six generations. La Gitana “The Gypsy” Manzanilla is Hidalgo’s flagship wine, a product of a family solera established in the early 19th century.
Today I tasted some fantastic sherries with Sr. Javier Hidalgo and would be happy to recommend any of them to you. I also made a youtube video with Sr. Hidalgo talking about his two Manzanilla sherries.
- Fino Clasica (SPEC $25) – Pale lemon, very bright citrus and salty aromas. Dry, light body with lower acidity. Citrus, yeast and apples, with some smoky oak on the finish.
- Manzanilla La Gitana ($15) – Pale lemon in colour with some nuttiness on the nose. Dry, light body with nuttiness, yeast, oak and apple flavours. A very refreshing taste in your mouth. Leaves you with a mouth watering finish.
- Manzanilla Pastrana (SPEC $30) – Apple juice colour in the glass. Light intensity aromas of apples and yeast. Miedium minus body, round and dry. Very smooth with citrus, oak and nuttiness on the palate.
- Heredade Hidalgo Medium (SPEC $26) – Deeper golden brown colour. Nutty, caramel sweet nose. Medium plus body, off-dry, soft with apple flavour up front and caramel following later.
My Favourite Wines
As I mentioned above, all the sherries from Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana are a hit with me.
From Van Zeller & Co and Vale Dona Maria, I really liked the Van Zeller Branco VZ 2010 and Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Douro Tinto 2008.
From Azienda Agricola Gulfi, I recommend their Nero d’Avola “Nerojbleo” 2009.
From Domaine Louis Moreau, I enjoyed their AOC Petit Chablis 2011 and Grand Cru Valmur 2008.
Finally, from Champagne de Vonage my picks are Rose Brut N/V and Blanc de Blancs 2000, although all the champagnes were very good.
Thank you to Seacove for the background material on the wineries.