Wine Gourmet  

A must-have for the wine lover and enthusiast of any level is a subscription to the Wine Spectator.
A must-have for the wine lover and enthusiast of any level is a subscription to the Wine Spectator.

Christmas accessories

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Gifts that are wine-related are great for Christmas, especially when you consider that so many people are entertaining during the Christmas season. But sometimes giving a Christmas gift to the wine lover on your list can be daunting, what with the vast array of wines, corkscrews, glasses and magazines. And while a bottle of wine does make for a great present, maybe look for a wine that is very limited and therefore special.

A must-have for the wine lover and enthusiast of any level is a subscription to the Wine Spectator. This magazine has been setting the industry standard on many fronts since 1976. An informative and cutting-edge magazine, it will round out your wine enthusiast’s knowledge in a variety of areas. A one-year magazine subscription (15 issues) is $80 CDN, HST included. This is a savings of 30% off the newsstand price. Or try the on-line subscription for only $49.95 USD. They can be both ordered on-line at Wine Spectator

Another great magazine is the Wine Advocate. Founded by Robert Parker Jr. in 1978, the Wine Advocate is loaded with wine information, article, tasting notes and ratings. Many wine pundits state that The Wine Advocate exerts the most significant influence on the wine consumer's buying habits and the New York Times wine critic Frank Prial asserts that "Robert W. Parker Jr. is the most influential wine critic in the world" although many dispute this. A subscription to the on-line edition of the Wine Advocate is $99USD for one year, $29 for a ninety-day trial or $12 for a one month trial. Or try the magazine format for $90USD for 6 issues. These can be ordered on-line at eRobertParker.com

While these publications deal exclusively with international wines, there is very little Canadian content available. If you are looking for more Canadian content, i.e. ratings and tasting notes on Canadian wines, then the Wine Access magazine is the one to pick.

Wine Access is published in Canada, written by Canadians and covers both international and Canadian wines. The magazine is edited by Vancouver Sun wine writer and Wine Access Editor-in-Chief Anthony Gismondi, one of North America’s most influential wine critics together with some of Canada's most experienced wine writers. A one-year gift subscription is available for only $19.95 (includes HST), which is a savings of $15 off their regular subscription rate! There are other subscription packages which can be access through their website at Wine Access

Wine related books are an excellent way to say Merry Christmas. I still treasure one of my first books on wine given to me by my brother and sister-in-law back in 1983. The name of that book is Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits. You might be able to find it through Amazon.com

One of the best selling wine books and now in its 34th year of publication, the Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book ($18 at Mosaic Books) is an excellent book for the neophyte.

Universally acknowledged as the world’s pre-eminent authority on wine, Mr. Johnson has been writing about wine since 1960. Indispensable for shopping and very handy to carry, the guide boasts up-to-date news on more than 6,000+ wines from over 50 countries. What I like about this book as opposed to others are the countless wine recommendations, and tips on pairing foods with the right wines. There’s even an app for you iPhone. It is the perfect companion for the wine enthusiast and every year this pocket guide is a global bestseller, reaching number one in the market.

For something also with a Canadian flare to it, the 3rd edition of John Schreiner's Okanagan Wine Guide ($20 at Mosaic Books) is a compact 248-page paperback, providing concise insider profiles of each of the region’s 129 wineries and for the first time covers winery producers from Creston, BC. Mr. Schreiner is the best-known Canadian wine writer, having written 15 books on the subject of Canadian wine and its industry.

One of the hottest items for wine is the Riedel (rhymes with needle) stemless glassware and the must-have is the “O” Series Cabernet-Merlot wine tumbler. Wine tumblers have been used for centuries as an all-round drinking vessel and are now a fun yet sophisticated wine accessory. A great, all-purpose red wine glass, the “O” Series is based on the more expensive, benchmark shapes of the Riedel Vinum Series.

If books and magazines are not what you are looking for, how about a wine course?

A Wine Appreciation course is probably the best way to acquire firsthand knowledge of wine. A course of this type involves tasting wines from different regions around the world and is usually in a very informal, relaxed atmosphere.

The UK based Wine and Spirit Education Trust offers a series of four internationally recognized wine courses consisting of the Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced and Diploma courses. Taught by WSET Educator Rhys Pender, these programs are recognized as the pre-eminent professional wine and spirit educational courses and are the gold standard in wine education.

WSET classes are offered at the Rotary Centre for the Arts and consist of three levels of programs. The Foundation Certificate is perfect for those who are just getting into wine or are entering the wine/hospitality industry. It offers the beginner the confidence to talk about wine with customers if you are in the industry or the ability to discuss the subject on a personal level. This course also provides an extensive tutorial on how to taste like a professional. Contact Rhys Pender at his website, Wine Plus or 250-499-8891 or email Rhys at ([email protected]).

In February at Okanagan College in Kelowna, Sandhill/Calona Head Winemaker Howard Soon will teach a 4-week course on Wine Appreciation. Try wines from all over the world and learn to taste and judge wines in order to squeeze the most from your wine buying dollar. You will learn the difference between myth and mystique in the wine business. Register on-line through the Okanagan College website, Continuing Studies.

If all you are after is a great bottle of wine, this weekend we continue looking at a selection of wines in varying price categories. Most are available in good supply but a few a very limited.

Australia is not well-known for Pinot Noir except in tucked-away corners of the country, preferably a cool climate region. The Mornington Peninsula, which is 87 kilometres south of Melbourne, is just such an area. The 2008 Cooralook Pinot Noir ($25 PWS) is pure decadent pleasure with its rich cherry, raspberry, smoke leather, forest floor characteristics and subtle spicy oak. The texture is pure Burgundian, soft, velvety and rich with a stunningly long, long finish. Superb with rich meat/game dishes with mushroom-based sauces.

A delicious wine to serve with your Christmas turkey, the 2008 d’Arenberg ‘Hermit Crab’ Viognier-Marsanne ($27 PWS) is a vibrant greenish gold coloured wine with a ripe, juicy mouthful of pear, peach, tangerine, honeysuckle, orange blossom, and pineapple flavours. In spite of the delicacy of its fruit and floral elements, the wine has a fine mouth-filling, crisp yet velvety palate loaded with tropical and orchard fruit characteristics with a juicy finish that lingers for an impressively long time.

The 2005 Beringer Syrah ($20 PWS...reduced from $27) is a delicious, deep ruby/purple-hued Syrah, offering loads of peppery berry fruit touched by roasted Provençal herbs, black currant fruit, black pepper, crème de cassis, mushrooms and underbrush characteristics in its full-bodied, deep style. It possesses supple tannin, impressive purity and overall harmony, and a surprisingly long, layered finish. With good underlying acidity and ripe tannin, it should evolve nicely for 5-7 years. Fantastic with a standing rib roast.

An unbelievable bargain, the 2005 Laroche Syrah ($16 PWS…reduced from $22) is loaded with savoury blackberry, cassis, and blueberry fruit aromas with hints of roasted sausage, licorice, chocolate, vanilla, cedar and spicy pepper. The texture is chunky and full with ripe black fruit, pepper, tobacco leaf, cedar and smoke. Rich velvety finish with soft acidity and ultra-firm tannins, this wine could do with some cellaring but it is perfect with any type of roasted red meats.

The 2006 Fontanafredda Barbera D’Alba ($18 PWS…reduced from $23) is quite powerful and intense for a wine at this ridiculous price with aromas of ripe plums, black cherry, roses, licorice, truffles, leather and tar. Deep and concentrated but not overpowering, the palate is loaded with rich black fruit, spice, tobacco, smoke and cedar and a long finish with spice, dried herbs and berry flavours towards the end. An excellent candidate for the cellar, it will reward with another 2-3 years of cellaring.

Produced from 40 year old Garnacha (Grenache) bush vines, the 2009 Beso de Vino ($17 PWS) is, at under $20 a bottle, a steal. Rich deep purple colour with an approachable nose of sweet black cherry liqueur, raspberries and black pepper mixed with sweet melted licorice, roses and rich loamy earth. Full-bodied, amazingly elegant with a luxurious texture, soft acidity and firm tannins, this is a wine for enjoying over the next 1-3 years.

Merry Christmas

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