Friday, June 16, 2017

Look out here comes Cider

A rapidly growing trend in Canada is a desire to drink Cider

Cider is an alcoholic beverage made mainly from the fermented juice of apples, though pears can also be used; in the UK, pear cider is known as perry. In the US and parts of Canada, the term cider almost exclusively refers to nonalcoholic apple juice (apple cider). The phrase hard cider is used to denote the fermented version.

Real cider is fermented apple juice, pure and simple. Traditionally, it is made with bittersweet and bitter-sharp apples, which have the tannins and acidity required to make a quality product. While dessert apples, such as Granny Smith or MacIntosh, are used by large commercial cider makers, these common varieties often require the addition of modifiers such as concentrates and synthetic flavourings.

Common varieties include: Golden Delicious, Johngold, Macoun, Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, and Honeycrisp. Ontario McIntosh, Ida Red, Spy, Gala, Paula Red, and Russet are commonly used.

Defining the fruit (from National Association of Cidemakers)

Cider apple varieties are divided into four categories according to the relative proportion of acidity and tannin:

Sweet varieties are the blandest of the four categories, being low in both components. They are useful to blend with ciders from the more strongly flavoured varieties, which, by themselves, would be too extreme in taste and aroma to be palatable. Typical examples of sweet apples are Sweet Coppin, in use to a small extent, and Court Royal which was used extensively at one time but rarely used nowadays.

Bittersweet apples impart the characteristic flavour of English ciders; as the name implies, they are low in acid and high in tannin. The latter is responsible for two sensations on the palate - astringency and bitterness. In the bittersweet apple, there is a whole range of combinations of these two characteristics, varying from little astringency coupled with intense bitterness to very marked astringency coupled with mild bitterness. Typical bittersweets are Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Tremlett’s Bitter.

Sharp varieties, so called because the predominant characteristic is that of acidity, are encountered less frequently today, possibly because culinary fruit, which has a similar flavour balance, can be substituted for this class. There are, however, recognized full sharp cider varieties, two of which are Crimson King and Brown’s Apple.

Bitter-sharp is the fourth class of cider apple. These are fairly high in acid and tannin, although the latter component does not show the wide range of flavours exhibited by the bittersweet. Stoke Red is a good example.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Icewine and Food

Icewine has an extravagant sweetness and intensity. Its magical balance of acidity and sweetness gives it a texture that is surprisingly elegant and sets it apart from other dessert wines. This balance of perfectly ripe fruit flavours and aromas with acidity for depth and complexity makes Icewine the least coying of all dessert wines and more likely to marry well with a wider variety of foods.

Icewines made from Vidal are noted for their affinity with honey's flavours. In addition to aromas of tangerine, apricot and pineapple, when Vidal is aged in oak it takes on rich overtones of vanilla, almonds and freshly baked bread. Vidal Icewine works beautifully in a glaze for caramelized grilled pork roast or as an accompaniment to fresh summer berries with cream, chocolate biscuits, a pear tart or a raspberry mousse.

Riesling based Icewine is renowned for its acidity and mineral notes. Its vivid orange and citrus tones will combine with a rich range of creamy and decadent food textures and tastes, from foie gras to crème brulée.

The crimson Icewine crafted from Cabernet Franc yields up the classic aromatics of baked strawberry and rhubarb pie. This wine shines when teamed up with cooked or baked fruit courses featuring cherries or wild strawberries with crème fraîche. It's spicy exotic quality is underlined when contrasted to foods with hazelnut and dark chocolate

Icewines are magnificent with cheese, especially blue cheese such as Roquefort and Gorgonzola, hard and aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano and aged Gruyere and some sheep's cheese such as Pecorino.

Milder cheeses simply fade away against the dominant Icewine flavours. Foods made with Cheese such as Sweet Chevre Scoffle with peace sauce or authentic savoury cheesecake can find no better partner than Icewine .

Icewines are magnificent with cheese, especially blue cheese such as Roquefort and Gorgonzola, hard and aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano and aged Gruyere and some sheep's cheese such as Pecorino.

Milder cheeses simply fade away against the dominant Icewine flavours. Foods made with Cheese such as Sweet Chevre Scoffle with peace sauce or authentic savoury cheesecake can find no better partner than Icewine .

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Charcuterie Board

The latest trend in hospitality at your local winery is the outdoor patio where you can get wine by the glass, order a pizza, select a cheese plate or a charcuterie board. My favourite is the charcuterie board, which seems to go extremely well with a wine assortment.

Charcuterie plate charcuterie (shahr-cute-uh-ree) is a French word for any smoked, dry-cured or cooked meat. This category includes favourites like bacon, ham, pâté and sausages. More esoteric items like terrines, rillettes, galantines and duck confit are also considered charcuterie.

Access to a good butcher shop is important to the winery for selecting quality meats.  The plate often is composed of various salamis and prosciutto ham. A spreadable jam or chutney is a must, and of course crackers or toast.

The French prefer duck rillettes and various pates`

Although cheese is not considered charcuterie almost everyone has various cheeses on their board. Cheese goes well with wine, nuts and olives are often included on the plate

I prefer a light refreshing wine such as Pinot Grigio or a soft Riesling.

Glass House Estate produces a very nice one in the Fraser Valley. In Ontario Coffin Ridge is rated highly.

One of the secrets to a good charcuterie board at a winery is to keep it simple too many flavours can overwhelm the wine. Let your guests savour the foods and the wines. 

Monday, May 15, 2017


Around the world the world you will find a large number of wineries owned and run entirely by women.  There are even more female winemakers. There are numerous husband and wife teams. One winery located near Oliver, British Columbia is owned by a mother daughter team.

Cana Vines is a mother-daughter team committed to creating small-lot, handcrafted estate wines for everyone. Arnie Elgert bought the property in 1991. Her daughter Lisa Elgert is the winemaker.

Amongst these wineries, the word "sisters" is in the name of many of them. Two such wineries are Two Sisters in Niagara on the Lake and Three Sisters on the Naramata Bench in British Columbia.

Two Sisters Vineyards is owned by two sisters Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli and Angela Marotta between them they have seven children hence the seven grapes on the logo.

The property has a total of 76 acres and all the reds are estate grown. They are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot
The winery has done well in International wine competitions. The 2104 Royal Wine Awards a Gold medal for 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, a Silver medal for 2011 Eleventh Post and two Bronze medals for 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay and 2010 Merlot.

Two Sisters were recipients of a Gold Medal for 2011 Eleventh Post Proprietary Blend and Silver Medals for 2013 Reisling and 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay and Bronze Medal for 2010 Cabernet Franc at InterVin 2014.

In 2003 John and Liz Lawrence, acquired a 15 acre property with a 7.5 acre planted vineyard. This retirement plan, although somewhat a hare-brained scheme, was based on a long family history of farming, a passion for growing and an appreciation of vineyards from around the world.

Earlco Vineyards Ltd was shaped in response to the burgeoning wine industry in the Okanagan, particularly on the Naramata Bench. The name is simply derived from the naming of our vineyard blocks after us, the three sisters: Emily, Abby and Rebecca Lawrence and put into a Company! After 10 years the company has extended its own vineyards and entered into arrangements with local owners for the care and maintenance of their vineyards. Now farming over 160 acres of vineyards, Earlco Vineyards Ltd is a well-established and recognised viticulture company in the Okanagan.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Coming of Age

The Fraser Valley is fast becoming one of British Columbia's most exciting wine regions. The wineries extend from Chilliwack right into the heart of the City of Vancouver. One area of the Valley is a major tourist route; extending from the Mt Lehman region near Abbotsford to the wineries of Langley Township.

During the past month, Barbara and I have visited two new wineries, Seaside Pearl Farmgate Winery in the Mt Lehman region and The Glass House Winery in Langley Township. A few days ago I dropped by one of our favourite wineries Blackwood Lane Estate Winery on my own.

I was met at the tasting room door with enthusiasm by owner and winemaker Carlos Lee.  I was aware there was patio expansion happening, which was confirmed by the noise of the tractor working behind the tasting room. Carlos showed me his plans for the new patio and viewing area.

This was very exciting as Barbara and I have enjoyed time spent on the patio in the past and will be looking forward to more good times when the upgrades are completed.

The patio offers a wonderful view of Mt Baker and the surrounding countryside where deer and horses wander freely.

The patio provides an outdoor area to enjoy wines, cheese boards and pizza in a very relaxing atmosphere. Aside from being very knowledgeable about the different wines the staff also provides excellent patio service.

But the best part about the winery is still the wines! I enjoyed a couple of hours tasting the latest vintages with Carlos and his Manager, Kim. Believe me, these are not your average wines. The quality is amazing, which is reflected in the price.

We began with the Vicuna Roja a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from their Osoyoos vineyards. The wine has a nice aroma with dancing fruit flavours on the taste buds.

Followed by a 2013 Cabernet Franc with a very smooth and light taste with flavours of strawberry, a most enjoyable wine.  The 2012 Merlot Special Addition offered up a nice sweetness.

Carlos then poured his amazing Reference, an expensive wine but one every collector will want to have in their cellar, John Schreiner (well-known wine critic) awarded it a score of 96.

The bottom line is when you tour the Fraser Valley you will not want to miss Blackwood Lane Estate Winery and all that it offers.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hospitality It's the Attitude!

When asked the question: Who is the most important person in your business. The answer is, of course, the customer. In most cases, you are relying on the continuous support of the customer and the reference they may provide for your business. The easy part of building a successful business is to get the customer to enter your establishment the first time, the hardest part is to get them to return. If you are like the average company, up to 40% of your customers walk out the door and never come back. What's worse, the "average" business is totally oblivious to their actual churn rate—so they do nothing to correct the problem

The number one reason people fail to return to a business is related to attitude. The attitude of indifference from the individual(s) who they encounter. To repeat that the number one reason for lost customers is the attitude. A poor attitude, poor service, disinterested service is the number one reason a customer does not return. When someone is happy with the services provided by a company the chances of them telling someone are less than 10% if they are unhappy the chances of them telling someone are over 80% the chances of them telling multiple people over 65%

So if you ask your employees who the most important person in the company is; the answer is me. Me referring to each individual employee. Me because it is each personal individual attitude that determines the success of the business.

Since I spent over 25 years in the hospitality business including writing a super host training program and at one time owned two restaurants I am very critical of the standards of service I receive in any business. I have had a few bad experiences as a customer dealing with improperly trained employees and management people. I'll never eat again at Boston Pizza.

There are other ways besides direct contact with a poor attitude that can also result in a business losing customers. Included here; not responding to inquiries either by phone, email or letters or keeping customers, investors, media and stakeholders updated. Your online presence is also a key factor. Respect those who support your business.

The Wineries:

It is not often that I experience a bad or unsatisfying visit to a winery, but it does happen.
I can recall waiting twenty minutes for the winery to open after the stated time on the door.
I've been told I can't offer you more than four tasting because it's against the law. It is not.
(I spit sometimes). I've been told a wine listed on their tasting menu will not be tested because we don't want to open a new bottle. I've even been subjected to a lecture on how good German wines are. What, you're working for a BC winery, not Germany. Oh yes we have been ignored too and on a couple of occasions found the winery door open but no one around.

Perhaps what irritates me the most is when your tasting room host is paying attention to you until some else comes in, be it a regular or a friend and suddenly you are forgotten about. The host must have the ability to include everyone.

At one respected winery restaurant, our waitress seemed to disappear after the main meal was served. When she finally returned she said "Oh I forgot about you"

I do not request any special treatment when visiting a winery. In fact, I prefer just to walk in and see how good or indifferent their hospitality is on a first-time visit.

Where I have more of a concern for a lack of hospitality and a poor attitude is at major wine tasting events. Here you often find bored sales agents and hired day staff. Often these people know little about the wines and wineries they are representing and far too often their cell phone rates ahead of you. You being the person the winery wants at their table and should be impressing; why else is the winery there!

I think it's important that the winery selects the right people to be representing them, skilled at greeting and acknowledging. Skilled at pouring wines, skilled at communications and have a knowledge of the wines and winery they are representing. Do not leave it up to the hotel, the event organisers or your marketing company. It up to you to protect the interest of your business.

Robert's Report

Monday, March 27, 2017

Five Wineries to Visit in the Similkameen Valley

The beautiful  Similkameen Valley is just a 3 hour scenic drive from Vancouver and only 35 minutes from Osoyoos. There are now 18 wineries in the Valley. There is also Twisted Hills Craft Cider and numerous fruit stands.

Here are five very popular wineries in the region

Clos du Soleil  which started in 2005 opened new facilities in 2015. The name means vineyard enclosed in the sun.The winery is known for it's consistent quality. The winemaker is Ann Sperling, who came to the winery with proven experience and knowledge.

Robin Ridge was established in 1997 by owners Tim and Caroline Cottrill. They use the Geneva Double Curtain Trellis system to allow more light on the fruit in the vineyard producing greater flavours. They practice organic farming.

Orofino Vineyards was Canada's first strawbale winery. Orofino means Fine Gold. Owners John and Virgina Weber's dream began in 2001 when they purchased 6 acres in the valley. The tasting room is powered by Solar power. They have established a reputation for outstanding wines.

Upon reaching the town of Cawston you must stop in at Forbidden Fruit Winery. They have proven over the years (35) to be one of Canada's best fruit wineries. They are certified Organic, you will enjoy visiting their winery. Steve Venables and Kim Brind'Amour are the owners, their son Nathan produces Dead End grape wines.

Corcelettes Estate Winery will start the 2017 season with a brand new tasting room. The tasting room is built right up against the cliff and will provide an amazing view of the valley.  The winery has found success based on the quality of their wines.

These are only five of the wineries in this beautiful underrated wine region. One needs to spend a couple of days here discovering the valley's exceptional wines.