Sunday, October 30, 2011

Talking Wine Trends with Joe Mathes from La Chaumière

Carmen: One of the things that makes La Chaumière really special is that it has a wine cellar that has a huge variety of wines at reasonable prices, which have been cellared for a really long time. What is exciting in the wine cellar right now?

Joe Mathes: All the mature Bordeauxs that are selling for a very reasonable price, as we said. I have a good strength in Margaux, still, a lot of 1979 and '78, which nobody really has any more, I have some '90s vintages still-- 1996, 1998 --which are mature to drink now. And I still have some 2000 and 2005 but 2005 it's not ready yet. We'll keep it for another couple of years.

Carmen: What wines do you see people drinking right now?

Joe: People are drinking mainly...well, what's changed the last thirty years is that we've gone from 20% red and 80% white to, now it's exactly reversed: people drink 80% red and 20% white. 

People are mainly into fuller-bodied wines like Cabernet and Merlot, Malbec, Shiraz... Pinot Noir, it is not at the top of the list at the moment. Even though that movie came out, you know...

Carmen: Sideways?

Joe: Yes. I mean, we all love pinot noir, but most people drink full-bodied wines. 

Carmen: What is the favourite region right now? 

Joe: In the moment I would say we sell, on the red wine [generally], let's say 30% of the red wines are French, 40% are Italians, and the rest is Californians. The new [request] that comes in is for Malbec. Malbec is the new rising star in the moment, people ask for it.

Carmen: So do you think Argentina is [an] up-and-coming region, or...?

Joe: It's more of a request for the flavour [as opposed to the country or region]. People like the flavour of it, for the body. Ten years ago nobody wanted Malbec, now it's something different. 

Same as, ten years ago [everyone drank] Chardonnay. They would come in and ask for Chardonnay, let's have a Chardonnay for our white wine. Now, we have Sauvignon Blanc, people ask it, they ask for Gr
üner Veltliner, they ask for different white wines again, it is not so one-sided anymore.

Carmen: What is a wine that is interesting or different that people may not know about? A grape that you would recommend or a region?

Joe: A nice grape, for example, from Italy is Trebbiano of Lugana. Trebbiano is a really nice grape, it's something if you don't want a Chardonnay but want something close to it. If you've ever tasted a great Trebbiano you stick with it.

Carmen: What is the most unusual bottle of wine you have in the cellar right now?

Joe:  The most unusual wine would be... I have some Syrah by Sine Qua Non. Sine Qua Non is the god in California in the world of Syrah. If he scores 96 he's upset because he expects a 98 or a 100.

Carmen: Last question: what are you going to be drinking with dinner tonight?

Joe: Well, because we have a nice saddle of venison, we will have some Amarone. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Upcoming Events at La Chaumiere: Wine Maker's Dinners

Every few months, La Chaumiere hosts one of our favourite wine makers by creating a special evening of learning, tasting, and storytelling. Get to know the story behind the vines, the wine, and the food. Ask questions, and meet the face behind the label. La Chaumiere's Wine Maker's dinners marry specially-curated wine producers and a fantastic menu focused on showcasing a chosen producer's portfolio. 

FRIDAY, October 28th 2011: Fabrizio Nencionci of San Felice (Italy) will be coming to La Chaumiere. 

This event features a six-course meal designed by Bob Matthews and his team:

Sable Fish with Mussels and Saffron
to be served with the Lugana Reserva - 2008

Wild Mushrooms Vol-au-Vent
Il Grigio - 2007

Lamb Chop with Polenta and Truffle
Vigarello - 2006

Beef Medallion with Brunello Sauce
Brunello di Montelcino - 2005

Selection of Fine Cheese
Poggio Rosso - 2006

Marinated Pineapple Carpaccio

This event will sell out quickly, please book well in advance by calling 403 228 5690. We look forward to seeing you there!

November 17th 2011: Georgio Conterno of Paolo Conterno Winery

Menu and line up TBA

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Great New Zealand Pinot Classification

La Chaumiere's good friend and established producer Pegasus Bay have alerted us that their pinot noir was awarded four stars on this year's Great New Zealand Pinot Classification, judged by Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer.

Congratulations, Peg Bay! We have loved you long time : )
 The family Mathes visiting Pegasus Bay in 2007. Wine maker Matthew Donaldson speaks to the many vintages of Riesling we tasted.

The most memorable long lunch ever. I would return to New Zealand just to have lunch at Pegasus Bay.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vine and Dine at La Chaumiere

Linda Garson, of Vine and Dine Calgary, has published two articles about her experience tasting from Napa Valley's Groth vineyards at La Chaumiere Restaurant. You can read about the white wines here and the red wines hereLinda is the creator of Vine and Dine, wine- and food-pairing events and tastings, which are open to the public. Linda is also the CBC's wine and food expert, and she is a well-known teacher of wine courses, at all different levels, around town. 

No wine experience is complete, of course, without a beautifully prepared and perfectly paired meal. 

With the whites, fresh codfish with prawn and zucchini blossom on a bed of spinach, tarragon beurre blanc.

And with the reds, tenderloin of Alberta beef with a truffle jus.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tasting Notes: the Washington State Reds of Gramercy Cellars

In order to attend a wedding this summer, my very good friend Lauren and I were going to be driving through Washington State. For me, it was imperative we factor une petite wine tour into our travels...

...even though Wall Walla was two hours out of our way in both directions.

The first surprise, for me, was the topography of the interior of Washington State. I had always assumed it was lush, dark green forest from about Seattle to the border of Idaho. Not so. Central Washington is much like Central Otago (in New Zealand)-- very very yellow. Lots of valleys and, in the middle of August, extraordinarily hot.

With only one wine-tasting day in Walla Walla, I was keen to hit up Woodward Canyon first. It's easy to find (part of a string of wineries along the main highway) and it's all charming and authentic, situated in a tiny heritage house amid rows of vines and gardens. 

After loving the Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cab Sauv (and buying a couple bottles) we headed across the street to L'Ecole 41, where we tried the only Washington State Chenin Blanc (delice!) and a whole bunch of easy drinking reds.

It was at L'Ecole 41 where the very hip young gentlemen behind the counter tipped us off that we absolutely had to check out Gramercy Cellars. "But the wine tour map takes you to the wrong place," they informed us, "here's a card with the updated location." 

So, after walking in the hot hot heat for 45 minutes from downtown Walla Walla to an industrial park, we discovered an unmarked building with a corrugated iron roof and a porch facade that matched the design on Gramercy's business card. Sweaty and ready for a sip of something--anything!--liquid, we entered.

It was cool inside. Dim and high-ceilinged. Lauren and I, as was our M.O. for most of the trip, immediately headed for the bathroom. As I waited for her, I read some of the newspaper- and wine magazine-articles posted in the hallway. In each and every one of them, "Youngest-Ever American Master Sommelier Greg Harrington Has Success in Wine World" was the general gist. Pictures of the fresh-faced Master Sommelier sipping wine and looking completely at home in front of the camera accompanied each article. As I pondered this profusion, I turned the corner back into the tasting room and met the gaze of... the man himself, the indomitable Mr. Greg Harrington.

Gramercy was begun in 2005 when Harrington left his New York wine industry job in favour of something less frenetic but in many ways more demanding. Gramercy is a boutique winery that partners with vineyards from the Walla Walla region and Columbia Valley. Harrington's wine equation seems to go something like this:

Quality grapes from local vineyards + limited new oak influence = location-specific wines

For Harrington, wines should taste of their upbringing and lineage; essentially, of the place they were raised.

Lauren and I tasted the latest releases from 2008, I believe (was I drinking at the time?) including the Walla Walla Valley Syrah, the Lagniappe Columbia Valley Syrah, Tempranillo and Columbia Valley Cab Sauv. All were delicious, more accessible than Woodward Canyon but less easy than L'Ecole 41. I especially appreciated the non-standard notes of blueberry/fresh raspberry on the Syrah, which had less smokeable or meaty tones than I'm used to tasting in, say, something from Northern Oregon. 

Greg was generous enough not only to chat with us about his vast and precocious wine experiences (and get me really interested in pursuing this Master Sommelier Programme) but to let us barrel taste. What an experience. Wild: it describes both the wines and the fun of discerning in a young young young juicy sip something like the seed of Grenache-y distinction, or the tannic bullishness of a baby Cab Sauv. It's drinking liquid potential.

That evening, with a bottle of Syrah and a bottle of Cab to add to my collection, Lauren and I took the Harrington's recommendation and had a very lovely meal at Saffron (lamb tartar with za'atar. I will only say it twice. lamb tartar with za'atar.)

Fast forward to Calgary, Alberta, Canada... and table 19 at La Chaumiere Restaurant. I've assembled a coterie of experienced winos (my Dad and Sean; Brittany and I; with Lauren and Kristin for back-up) for this momentous dinner and hand-delivered Washington wine experience. 

Head Chef Bob Matthews took control, creating an utterly astounding meal. I mean, I have worked at La Chaumiere since I was sixteen, and even though I am often in the kitchen, right in the action as it were, it is still a totally magical experience to have Bob cook for you. Absolutely incredible.

With the amuse bouche, which was foie gras mousse with a little olive oil crostini, we drank champagne cocktails.

First course was a tower of cold smoked salmon, deep fried tempura fava beans, endive, creme fraiche and basil oil. It was, according to my dad, just created on the spot, out of the genius recesses of Bob's deep knowledge and experience and it was, delicious. With it, we had a little Sancerre.

Second course was a small piece of arctic char, on jerusalum artichoke puree. Perfectly prepared, it went well with the last drops of Sancerre.

For main course we had lamb, with a beautiful porcini jus and mixed vegetables. Here was the perfect food for the wine we'd brought from Gramercy. 

That afternoon, when I'd given Dad the choice of whether he wanted to try the Syrah or the Cab, he'd hemmed and hawed and said "They both look very interesting" in that voice he has... and so we were drinking both bottles. (I'm a pushover when it comes to vino). Sean had decanted them at the beginning of the evening, and they were perched, ruby and crystal, ready for us.

What was most fun about tasting these wines, was the non-standardness (this term I shall create) of the varietals. This was not "a Cab" and "a Syrah," this was a particular Cab and a particular Syrah from a particular place. In this, Mr. Harrington has succeeded enormously. 

What was a learning experience for me, was when we opened a bottle of Woodward Canyon Aritist Series Cab from 2008 and tasted it side-by-side the Gramercy Cab. Here, it became apparent that Woodward has more established vines, and produces wines with a deeper structure. Structure like rosewood cabinets and oaken stairways you can step down in search of plums, dried cherries and tanned leather. The Gramercy Cab, by comparison, was a welcoming parlor created through excellent taste, with an aesthetic that is undeniably enticing. The walls are hung with warm red fruits like that tingle in the side of your mouth. Neither better nor worse that the Woodward, but so so different. 

The moral of this story, is that if you are in Washington State (even if only Seattle!) it is worth your while to drive to Walla Walla, and it is even more worth your while to visit Gramercy. This is a winery that will be producing the best wines out of Washington State. Mr. Harrington is a man of taste; and as such, he's creating and will create wines framed for the cellars of wine drinkers of a discerning disposition.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

wine, art, and storytelling

click HERE to read/adore 
"Meanwhile, The Bolinas Winemaker"
by Wendy MacNaughton

Wendy MacNaughton is a San Francisco-based artist and illustrator. She is awesome. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

welcome to our blog!

It is here that updates about wine and food (in that order, because, let's face it, I am writing this thing...) will be posted, and it is here that you can discover all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans you always suspected was going on in the wine cellar, but about which you were too polite to inquire...

For now, welcome. La Chaumière Restaurant has achieved 33 years of excellence in fine dining. We are the Calgary establishment for incredible food, fantastic service and, did I mention the wine? So, welcome. Make a reservation. Stay a while.