Wine Pairing: Change is Important

It’s a Matter of Timing.

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Much has been written about wine pairings, from the classic steak tartare and Pinot Noir to potato chips and Champagne there is a wine that is best suited to whatever fare is being served. Often times, behind that kitchen door, there is a great amount of thought going into the partnership that will occur on your dining room table. But we need to answer one question first: are we going to pair the food to the wine? Or vice versa?  If our wine choice is the priority then the food must be matched to that wine’s attributes. Wine style or varietal isn’t the only thing to consider though. The age of that bottle can also be an incredibly important factor in hitting that wine pairing out of the ball park. Let’s talk tannins.

Tannins and wine pairing

As a wine ages, tucked away in a cool temperature and humidity-controlled wine cellar, coarse tannins begin to soften, slowly, year after year. A wine once thought unapproachable, aged properly, can acquire grace and provide an experience beyond that which words can express (this is the lofty goal we dinner-planners strive toward). But an overly tannic wine served before it’s time – can be an epicurean fail.

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Think of bananas. Peel a green banana (as difficult as it is to do) and bite into it. All the moisture in your mouth immediately disappears and you are left “chewing on rope”. This is the perfect example of young, coarse, mouth-drying tannins. Now let that banana sit too long on the counter and it turns to mush. Here is where culinary art and science converge. Not unlike a banana, a bottle of wine needs to be served when it is at its best. The “drinking window” of a bottle of wine, however, is far longer than the life cycle of a banana, thankfully. This is why we seek out “classic vintages” and buy cases of six or twelve bottles, knowing that we can watch a wine evolve over the years, changing in our glass dinner after dinner, year after year.

What does the evolution of a California Cabernet Sauvignon have to do with the beef I’m cooking for dinner?

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Well, how are you preparing it to ensure the best wine pairing? Let’s say you’ve purchased 12 bottles of a 2016 Alexander Valley Cab with a drinking window of 2020-2030. We know this wine will be at its most tannic at the time of purchase, but you’re excited to try it. You will want to serve this young wine with a pairing that has backbone. Those tannins will be placeholders until those “secondary flavours” kick-in with a little aging. So you decide a beautifully marbled rib-eye steak with a simple, rich béarnaise sauce will do the trick. This meal will be all about matching texture, without too much concern for complexity. There is enough texture in this cut, and even a little fattiness that will stand up to those tannins and let you enjoy this youthful cab. Simple.

Now fast-forward a few years and you venture into you wine cellar or wine cabinet to pull that same vintage again. It now possesses softer tannins which gives way to secondary flavours like dark fruit, chocolate, and plum. Now venture into pairing it with grilled steak served with Salsa Verde, and enjoy how the more complex flavours like fennel, anchovy and chili flakes intermingle with this more expressive wine. It is a different experience each time.

Wine Pairing a decade later

Now a full decade has passed. You are about to open the last bottle of that 12 pack you purchased years earlier. You uncork that last bottle. The tannins have softened, and the wine is now silky, it’s nose reminiscent of tobacco and leather. This full, rounded, complex expression of the terroir of Alexander Valley now reclines in your glass. The preferred dinner companion now turns from a steak to roast duck, and you enjoy cinnamon, allspice and all its gamey flavours with the heights of a perfectly aged, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Change is good.

James Oatway

CAPS & Court of Master Sommeliers

Certified Sommelier

Spit Happens # 62- Holiday gifts for wine lovers

Every year we are inundated around this time for the latest and greatest wines and wine accessories for wine lovers. So I’m thinking this post will be no exception but I’ll try to make it a bit more practical and less gimmicky. These are my top 3 recommendations for wine related goodies. 2 are reasonable stocking stuffers and 1 is a wee bit more spendy . Champagne stoppers are super useful but maybe not in the way you think. My experience has led me to believe that most users of these stoppers try to use them to preserve the bubbles over the course of a few days. While they preform reasonably well the highest use case is to keep the bubbles contained in the bottle in a single serving. When I use the stoppers I’ll reseal between each pour as I find leaving the bottle open will degrade the experience in as little as 15 minutes. So as soon as the cork comes out I’ll use the stopper and just have it off long enough to pour the glasses I need. You will enjoy the last glass just as much as the first. If by some miracle you do have some left at the end of the night all the bubble will be preserved for Mimosas the following day. champagne stoppers Pulltap corkscrews are my favorite corkscrew to use on a regular basis . I think the combination of good design, sturdy construction and a nice feel in the hand make this a great price quality ratio. The double lever design makes it especially useful for longer corks and it’s not so expensive that you will be sad if it disappears. Look back to Spit Happens archives for a funny/embarrassing story about me opening wine for the first time in a restaurant setting. corkscrew Coravin is the present you get for the friend who has all the little toys . This little beauty is designed to let you sample your wine sealed with natural cork without opening the bottle. You clamp the unit on the side of the bottle and push the Coravin needle through the cork. The cartridges pressurize the bottle with an inert gas. Hit the switch and wine comes out and the inert gas replaces it and preserves your wine. You can sample the wine in a non-destructive way over the course of a few weeks. Perfect for drinking your best wine over the course of a few weeks/days . One piece of advice is to make sure your wine is sealed with a cork not a glass stopper, don’t ask me how I know …… coravin Thanks for your time. If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. . Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning. Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers David Lancelot

Spit Happens #61 – Wines of New Mexico (sort of)

While I was in Albuquerque New Mexico in October 2019 I visited an interesting winery. It feels like New Mexico is on the verge of something but I can’t put my finger on it. Gruet in Santa Fe is a long established producer that makes good to excellent sparkling wines. St Clair in Deming has some decent red wines and great QPR whites but now a player named VARA is on the scene. I think they are on the right track but time will tell as they release their new wines. They make a fortified slightly sweet apertif product called Vina Cardinal made from a grape called Listán Prieto ( AKA the Mission grape) . This grape variety was first planted in North America in 1629 by a Franciscan Friar named Garcia de Zuniga and a Capuchin Monk named Antonio de Arteaga . This is the oldest continuously grown grape in North America. For Vina Cardinal the grapes are grown in New Mexico and the wine is fortified to 17% alcohol and has a slight amount of residual sugar. Think of a blend of Pineau de Charentes and Dubonnet. Just the palest hue of pink and a pickled sweet watermelon rind mouthfeel. I think it would be brilliant with something old school like a melon wrapped with prosciutto starter course. The first releases of wines have not happened so they have been bringing in wines from Spain and bottling them in NM and label them Product of the United States. The tasting I had included a 2018 Viura ( super fresh and clean) a 2018 Albarino ( nice and briny ) as well as a Tempranillo Lot #014 and a Garnacha #014 ( perhaps the lot numbers relate to the vintage ?) . The reds were a bit on the tired side so I poured them both together and the sum was greater than its parts. We bought the Viura and I’m looking forward to trying it with some seafood pasta. Vara entrance 1 After a bit more research it looks like the plan is to release locally grown wines in the future . Also they have a dynamic young chef turning out some excellent food to match the calibre of the wines. The duck confit with juniper and coriander was very nice with the reds and the Papas Bravas (fried potatoes with smoked tomato aioli ) were superb with the whites if a bit spicy for my tastes. Check out VARA Wines in Albuquerque at 315 Alameda Boulevard NE Zipcode 87113 phone 505 898 6280 Vara interior 2 Thanks for your time. If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. . Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning. Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers David Lancelot    

Spit Happens # 60 -Still Learning

Every so often a book comes along that challenges my preconceived notions about wine. Between the Vines by Terry Theise is just the book to do that. First of all who the heck is Terry Theise ? Terry is a fellow who spends a ton of time in Germany, Austria and Champagne hunting down wines of distinction. I first met him at a Society of Wine Educators Conference in Vancouver about 16 years ago . I signed up for a tasting he was offering on the Wines of Austria , specifically Gruner Vetliner. I had vague knowledge of the grape but little of it was ending up in Canada . It was however the darling of all the hip Sommeliers from the East and West Coast of America at the time. Looking back on it this was largely due to the efforts of Terry and his American business associates Michael and Harmon Skurnik . I went ( along with John Clerides from Marquis Wine Cellars ) with no preconceived notions about the wines but a bit of dread as it was scheduled to be a 2 ½ hour tasting and I thought it would be too long to sit and might be a bit esoteric for our store. I couldn’t have been more surprised when the tasting ended and I still wanted more. More information and more wine. Terry was engaging and erudite with great wines to try and great insight as to why these wines deserved more attention. John paid a great deal of attention to Terry and subsequently brought in a number of wines from the Austrian portfolio that Terry “discovered” . He also brought in some great Champagnes that Terry found as well but that is another story. Fast forward to 2010 and Terry published a book called Reading Between the Wines ISBN 978-0-520-26533-2. I bought the book when it came out and read it in a single sitting, then filed it away. On a recent trip I pulled the book out of my “ pile o’ wine books to read it again”. This time around my brain was more receptive to the message he was eloquently attempting to explain. All my wine life I have been a “points” guy. Numbers from Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and other writers mattered to me more than I’m willing to admit. I was seduced by the big points and the experience of drinking them. The problem is the points arrive from a process of tasting that values amplitude and concentration more than elegance and finesse. The big points wines stand out in a crowd much the same way Shaquille O’neal would stand out in a kindergarten class. That also means they will stand out in a flight of other wines that might have more delicacy and tact. Terry thinks we have it wrong and he has a manifesto of sorts that explains his criteria for wine he values the most when selecting wines.

  • Clarity
  • Distinctiveness
  • Grace
  • Balance
  • Deliciousness
  • Complexity
  • Modesty
  • Persistence
  • Paradox

I’m pretty comfortable in saying there are few writers that consider Grace ,Modesty or Paradox when giving a wine a 100 points. I would put forward the theory that for the most part writers ascribe density, extract/concentration and richness over any of Terry’s criteria. It’s possible for both points of view to exist but I’m starting to think that I spent a career ascribing a level of quality to wines that was undeserved. Think about those quiet but moving novelists that don’t make the Pulitzer Prize list, think about the singer at your local cafe you love to listen to that never gets any airplay for the songs they write. Is their effort and craft any less deserving of your attention? I think not. Wine has a different role in my life now. I don’t want it to shout at me, I want it to form an integral point of my meal but not dominate the conversation or the effort expended to make a great meal.


Thanks for your time.

If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. .

Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning.

Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers.

David Lancelot

Spit Happens #59 – I’m so High.

I recently visited the highest elevation commercial Vineyard in North America. Link .It was a real eye opener and got me thinking that we need to rethink the North American idea that hybrid grapes don’t have value and that irrigation is always needed. While touring the Okanagan Valley this summer I had some guests that own the highest vineyard that grows grapes for commercial wine in North America. They are near Cortez Colorado at an elevation of 6600 feet ( 2011 meters ) . We decided to visit Jerry Fetterman and Jean Ann Mercer on our way to New Mexico this fall and I’m so glad we did. They are a middle aged couple with backgrounds in science and enjoy being in a rural part of Colorado . Jerry built a cabin there in the 70’s and over the years added on to it as well as acquired more property in the area. It was on one of these properties that he decided they would plant grapes but also that they would dry farm them. If you have been to wineries in the Okanagan you know that the thought of dry farming is an anathema to most growers. So imagine a one acre vineyard growing Baco Noir ( a hybrid grape ) at 6600 feet in the high dessert area of western Colorado . Baco Noir from Wikipedia Baco noir is a hybrid red wine grape variety produced by Francois Baco from a cross of Vitis vinifera var. Folle blanche, a French wine grape, and an unknown variety of Vitis riparia indigenous to North America.” This area is breathtaking in it’s beauty and among some of the most rugged challenging conditions I have seen to attempt to ripen grapes. And yet they thrive up there. We visited about a week before the planned harvest of they grapes and the dry farmed vines were thriving and producing grapes that looked lovely.


All the wines have an interesting bright fruit character and can benefit from a few years of age. 2018 was my favorite. The wines were made by Guy Drew Wines ( now defunct ). The labels were created by the vineyard owners and not commercially released.

Thanks for your time.

If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. .

Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning.

Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers
David Lancelot

Spit Happens #58 – The Rhone Valley Underappreciated Bits

I have been a big fan of some of the lesser known regions of the Rhone Valley and I think they deserve a wider audience. Many wine drinkers will know about the premium wines of Hermitage , Côte-Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape . The first 2 are Syrah based wines from the Northern Rhone and the latter is the home of rich reds and whites from the Southern Rhone. The wines are generally high quality wines that are age worthy but the prices can be eye watering high. If you have followed this blog for awhile you will note that’s not my style. I look for great wines and more modest price points aka QPR is my mantra. So what are the sleeper areas of the Rhone ? I’m so glad you asked. I have 2 absolute favorites Rasteau and Gigondas.

The Village of Rasteau


Lets start with Rasteau.  This region in the Southern Rhone is dominated by Grenache and its cousins. Mainly producing big rich high alcohol reds but it also is the home of a category of sweet wines called Vin Doux Naturel , think licorice flavored port style wines and VDN comes to mind.

The producers I would look for are La Soumade, The vineyards date back to the early part of the last century. Up until 1979, the grapes were sent to the local cooperative. André Roméro was the first of his family to ferment wine from the family vineyards. Ownership of the domaine is now in the hands of his son, Fredéric. The domaine covers 31 ha (76 acres), mostly in the cru of Rasteau with 3 ha of terrace vineyards in Gigondas and some vineyards in Côtes du Rhône classification. The terroir of Rasteau is mostly on south-facing slopes with a little more clay than some other appellations and produces full-bodied wines.

The domaine is focused on dry reds but also produces a Vin Doux Naturel (fortified) red wine which is wonderful with blue cheese and chocolate. The wine making emphasizes extraction and precise temperature control. The reds are fermented in stainless and large wooden vats for the more concentrated juice. The three main Rasteau cuvées are aged in concrete and foudres (large, old oak barrels).

Côteaux des Travers From the domaine’s Rasteau vineyards on clay-limestone soils with south- and southwestern-facing orientation, this wine is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. These vines are all around 40-60 years old with a low yield of 30 hl/ha. Grapes are 90% destemmed, and undergo a long fermentation with daily punchdowns. The wine is then aged in large wooden and concrete vats for a year.

Bressy Masson In 1947 the domain was founded by the grand father of Marie-France Masson.Her father Emile Bressy ran the the domain until he died in 1976 and left the domain to Marie-France. She is married to Thierry Masson who works hard in the vineyardsThe next generation Paul Emile Masson helps his parents at the estate and is taking over the winemaking.The vineyards cover 30 ha in Rasteau. Several cuvées of Rasteau are made. The difference between them comes foremost from the age of the vines. Not all of the cuvées are made every year.

Trapadis Helen Durand is one of the most meticulous and thorough winemakers in Rasteau. He has been making and selling his wines since he was sixteen years old and now has twenty vintages under his belt at the family estate. The Trapadis winery is certified organic and cultivates 35 hectares of vines in several appellations. The wines are balanced, wholesome and colourful, and they stand out for their intensity and texture while being easily digestible and fresh. At this estate nothing is left to chance: Every detail is diligently executed to obtain dense, but elegant and fine wines with a long finish. And yes Helen is a dude just in case you thought I had gender mixed up.

Stay tuned for part 2 on Gigondas.

Thanks for your time.

If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. .

Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning.

Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers.

David Lancelot

Spit Happens #57 – Gaston Huet

vovrayOne of the “under the radar” wine regions of the world is the Loire Valley. Wine lovers know it is the premier region for Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne. Cool temperature grape growing region equals attenuated wines with mouthwatering acidity. This picturesque region with rolling hillsides and amazing castles is the center of France geographically and a gastronomic treasure for wine and cheese. Some of it’s most famous sub-regions are Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, Chinon, Coteaux de Layon and Vouvray. Although it is Coteaux de Layon that sparked my love of wine, I want to talk about Vouvray today. Specifically, a producer called Domaine Huet. It was founded in 1928 by Victor Huet and his son Gaston.  Gaston was the mayor of Vouvray for 40 plus years and was influential in the production of wine well into his 80’s. Gaston was an early proponent of bio-dynamic farming. In 1986 he began converting his vineyards to bio, by 1991 his 35 hectares had been converted. He was also instrumental in providing assistance to many wineries during World War II, the Germans wanted to “liberate” French wine and send it back to Germany. He showed a number of vignerons how to create fake walls to hide the wines so they could have income when the war was over. See Wine and the War. Huet offers a range of wines from Sec, Demi-Sec, Moelleux, Premiere Trie ( TBA like) to a sparkling wine that’s delicious, The dry wines are all bracing acidity and aromatics of crushed Granny Smith apples. The sweet wines are magnificent beasts that smell of apricot jam, lavender honey and wildflowers. They will delight seasoned wine drinkers and newbies alike. Cellar up to 30 years. As an aside the 59’s are drinking well … still !!! Purchase these wines in Vancouver or online at Marquis Wine Cellars. Thanks for your time. If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. . Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning. Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers David Lancelot

Spit Happens #56 – Wine Corkage

corkageI love wine. Remember me saying that? Well, I also love bringing my wine to a restaurant and enjoying it with different foods that I might not want to cook at home. For the uninitiated, this is called corkage. Restaurants ( for a fee) will allow you to bring your own wine and allow it to be served in their restaurant. For many years this was not legal however a change in liquor regulations in the summer of 2012. A restaurant can charge any amount they want or chose not to offer corkage as well. They must be the ones to open and serve the bottle and you can take any remaining wine home should it not be consumed ( make sure it’s in the trunk or very back of your vehicle when you leave). I think that corkage could be a powerful tool for restaurants but it is underutilized. Restaurants see this concept of corkage as diminishing their opportunity for profit. I see it as a way to increase sales and even out your business through the entire week.
  • How about free or discounted corkage on slow nights? Monday or Tuesdays. ( see below )
  • Maybe busy nights they could ask you to buy a bottle off the list and the second bottle could have a corkage charge applied.
  • How about corkage for slow lunch days and early reservations (before 6pm)?
Too many restaurants see corkage as an all or nothing proposition, my three ideas are just a start. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. A couple of pieces of advice I would like to add, if the wine list for the restaurant is online to make sure you aren’t bringing a wine already on the list as that is poor form, also tip your server a bit better % since they aren’t charging you big bucks for the wine. The following restaurants offer corkage. Thanks for your time. If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. . Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning. Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers David Lancelot

Spit Happens #55 – Have you tried Grower Champagne

SPITHAPPENS58 In the big world of wine, there is a subcategory of wine we call bubble. This includes Cava, Prosecco, Spumante, Frizzante, Champagne and other variants. The sub sub-category of Champagne is occupied by the Big Companies like Veuve Clicquot, Moet Chandon, Mumm, Taittinger, and others. It’s also got another category called Grower Champagnes. From Wikipedia  “Grower Champagnes are those Champagnes that are produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards where the grapes are grown. Récoltant-Manipulant is the term in French, and Grower Champagnes can be identified by “RM” on the wine label.” Growers Champagnes are a subset of a subset but they deserve some love and attention. The distinction is quite significant. Big companies may or may not grow the grapes and in some cases might not even make the base wine. They have a vision of the flavor profile they want for their house brand and the art is in making a consistent product that tastes the same from bottle to bottle and year to year. Grower Champagnes are the antithesis of the big guys. They are single individuals ( can’t even have a partner or family member growing grapes at another property ) that grow the grapes, make the base wine, make it into Champagne and bottle it themselves. They are idiosyncratic with character and significant variety from year to year. In my opinion, the finest source of information on Grower Champagne is an importer named Terry Thiese. I have been reading his catalogs for years and they are fantastic. He has a manifesto that he follows for choosing winemakers to work with. The Theise Manifesto:
  • Beauty is more important than impact.
  • Harmony is more important than intensity.
  • The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts.
  • Distinctiveness is more important than conventional prettiness.
  • Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil, and artisanality.
I couldn’t agree more. Get his catalogs here. Grower Champagnes I would look for in British Columbia would include Pierre Peters from the BC Liquor Stores, Gaston Chiquet and Paul Bara at Marquis Wine Cellars and Champagne Egly-Ouriet private BC Liquor Outlets, get in touch with That’s Life Gourmet Wine Agency to find these products. Thanks for your time. If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. . Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning. Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers David Lancelot

Spit Happens #54 – Oregon


Brittan Vineyards [Andrea Johnson Photography]

Oregon is one region that the average wine consumer knows a tiny bit about but rarely gets an opportunity to taste. The wineries aren’t usually big enough to export to Canada and the retailers look to California due to regional recognition and industry marketing initiatives. If we are lucky we might find good Washington wines due to proximity. Oregon is the in between state. Here and there you will find agents who like and represent these wineries and retailers who seek out unrealized opportunities. Shanyn Ward from Cask and Barrel Liquor Store in Westbank BC and Colin Bussiere from Only Hearts Spirits Agency recently offered wine lovers in the Okanagan a taste of Oregon.
  • Raptor Ridge 2017 Tuscowallame Estate Gruner Veltliner from Chehalam , 24-48 days in stainless steel, no stems, light neutral nose,medium weight ,some clean citrus notes. Very seafood friendly. Early appeal. $39.69
  • Foris Vineyard 2016 Dry Gewurztraminer,fermented whole cluster, 30 days in stainless steel. Pungent melon, a bit herbal cilantro character with a preserved lemon nose. Slightly reminiscent of Thrills Gum. $32.89
  • Hamacher 2015 “H” Pinot Noir, cold soak 7 days and fermented with wild yeast. Lots of red fruit and wild herbs and a bit of wet leather, primarily Pommard clone and a Swiss clone $52.99
  • Hamacher 2013 Pinot Noir, cherry and strawberry rhubarb, medium weight. Most in the room thought it had lots of life left but I’m in the minority , I feel there are maybe 1-2 years of improvement left for this wine. Aged 3 years before release, 370 cases made. $95.79
  • Foris Vineyards 2016 Rogue Valley Pinot Noir, Blueberry notes and a bit of currant, supportive oak but not pushy ( 16% 2nd fill barrels). Estate grown $39.39
  • Raptor Ridge 2015 Barrel Select Pinot Noir, polished tannins, nice density with a mushroomy oriental 5 spice quality. Sourced from Meredith Mitchell and Shea Vineyards, 2 vineyards with great pedigree. $48.99 . This is my pick of the evening.
  • Brittan Vineyards 2014 Basalt Block Pinot Noir Mcminnville . Mineral and iron, big and dense. Firm raspy tannin from this single vineyard AVA. Lots of upside potential. $91.69.
The continuing weak Canadian dollar doesn’t help these prices but if you are looking for a fresh perspective on American wines this is the place to start. Thanks for your time. If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you on our Facebook page. . Also check out our Houzz Page for design ideas and planning. Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food. Cheers. David Lancelot