Stained – An informal look at the the wonderful world of wine (and other bevs) by Charlie Cleghorn

Published September 24, 2012

StainedWhat is “stained”? It is an informal look at the the wonderful world of wine (and other bevs) through the slightly smeared lens of an experienced wine enthusiast. We hope to shine a light on wines for everyday living, entertaining, gift giving and food pairing in a way that is low on “wine talk” and high on fun. But don’t be surprised if you learn something along the way.

As the song goes….”It’s the most wonderful time of the year”.

By the time you read this column, the launch of one of the most anticipated vintages from Bordeaux will be upon us. That’s right the 2009 vintage will be released at selected Government Specialty Liquor stores (Park Royal, Caufield) Saturday September 29th. Even though many private wine stores have been selling their selections from the ’09 vintage the greatest selection by far will be sought by the stampeding hordes of wine collectors, restauranteurs, and those curious to see what all the fuss is about. In truth, there is good reason to get excited about the most release as Bordeaux has effectively had a fantastic run of “vintages of the century”. The 2000, 2005 and the 2009 vintages make for one of the best decades in recent memory. But do be prepared to pay up as the prices are truly astronomical (recession what recession!). The good news is that in these great vintages all boats rise in the tide meaning that there are great wines to be had for a lot less than what the collectors will pay.

We really are in the sweet spot for wines these days as the days get a little shorter and the nights a little cooler. In wine world. It helps to concentrate the flavors of the grapes still hanging. In drinkers’ world it means that the selection of libations couldn’t be better. Not to mention the prices! Many producers and their agents use this time of the year to really kick start their wine sales. So really keep a keen eye out for your favourite wines as they might be had for a lot less that usual.

And not to dwell on it but really the purpose of this posting is to ensure that you will not do the usual anymore. It’s OK to venture beyond your usual tasty J. Lohr and make a connection to possibilities that the wine world has to offer. For that matter, I will also attempt to identify a number of selections from the beer world where things are really exploding in terms new taste offerings.

To that end I have a couple of picks for you to consider in your shopping this month:

Astrolabe Sauvignon BlancAstrolabe Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $24 (avail. at most private liquor stores)
From the New Zealand producer of Cloudy Bay comes this fantastic boutique wine that had many at the International Playhouse Wine Festival oohing and ahhing. A mouthwatering starter for the night or paired with a walnut and pear salad “This bright, juicy white delivers succulent notes of passion fruit, honeydew melon, key lime and asian pear. ” – WIne Spectator 91 pts

Jackson Triggs Gold Series Meritage 2010 – $20 (general listing at most BCL stores)
This wine is a perfect pairing for mushroom soups and earthier flavored starters or enjoy with light cream sauces, fresh seafood or soft cheeses. On its own you can taste just a touch of oak to soften its core flavors of passion fruit and grassy citrus notes. It has a blend of mostly Sauvignon Blanc with a flavor burst from the 15% Semillon grapes.

Chateau Rouselle Cotes de Bourg 2009 – $25 (avail. at most private liquor stores)
If you want to get a glimpse of what all the fuss is about try this little number. Offering up dark cassis (read blackberries kicked down a dirt road) and tobacco (read cigar box smells), with hints of licorice, thyme and rosemary, this wine paired with a beautiful piece of meat will surely be a treat. Especially at the price!

Chateau Rouselle Cotes de BourgeI can not leave this space without telling you that the beer geeks out there are all very excited as the big fall rush of Pumpkin beers are upon us. If you like the idea of a full flavored, spicy (read cinnamon, nutmeg) beverage with a hint of pumpkin flavor then this is your beer. Seriously, try one of the single bottles if you don’t want to commit to a six pack just for the experience. If you can imagine this as a pairing with autumn soups then you are already there!

Howe Sound Pumpkin Eater – $11 (avail. at most Private & BCL stores)
A pumpkin ale brewed with barley, fresh roasted pumpkin, hops, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, water and yeast, it is one of the local seasonal favorites. This beer is produced in very limited quantities each fall. As a malty, spiced ale, it will go well with both savory and sweet items. Try it with cheese, nuts, and of course pumpkin pie.

St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale – approx. $15 (avail. at most Private & BCL stores)
Probably my favorite over the years and by far the most consistent winner amongst many a “blind” taste test. No, I was not actually made blind. Think about having this autumn sipper as you are watching the leaves tumble or the pigskin fumble!

Lastly, there is a new entrant in the local beer market that has been a fixture on the Gastown scene for years. Steamworks has recently launched 2 new beers in a six bottle format as well as 2 bomber (650ml) flavours that are available currently at your local private retailer and soon in selected government stores.

St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale

Steamworks Pale Ale – approx. $15 (avail. at most Private & BCL stores)
If you liked the some of those beers that you had on your trips to Oregon, Washington or northern California, then you’ll like this one. It’s a full flavored pale ale that has hoppy flavor reminiscent of  Sierra Nevada

Steamworks Pilsner – approx. $15 (avail. at most Private & BCL stores)
Not your Kokanee pilsner, not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that it surprises with a more full flavored style with slightly bitter finish. Incredibly refreshing and one that has become one of my recent favourites.


Well that’s it for our first installment. If there are particular wines, varietals or regions you would like us to investigate for you or you just want some feedback on a particular bevy just twitter us at………

Charlie Cleghorn
“Wine Enthusiast”