The World of Yalumba

In 1849, a vineyard was planted in Angaston, South Australia, which now makes Yalumba the oldest Australian family winery. Yalumba is also part of an elite group of families in Australia, called ‘First Families of Wine’, with the 12 families owning a total of 5000 ha of vines along with 1200 years combined experience in viticulture and winemaking. That’s impressive.

And just two weeks ago, Ambassador Jane Ferrari came to town to launch “The Caley”, a project to bring an Aussie Claret to the world. Grandson to Samuel Smith, the founder of Yalumba, Fred Caley- Smith was a horticulturalist, correspondent and adventurer, who after 18 months of intense travel to locales such as India, USA, Europe and the Middle East, documented his horticultural findings in letters sent back home. The end result was more sustainable viticulture and how vineyards were managed. Of course, I can’t tell the story nearly as eloquently as Jane Ferrari can, but the history is fascinating, which in my books, makes the wine even more delicious, even before it’s even tasted!

2012 was an epic year for viticulture in Southern Australia, and this incredible wine made from 3/4 cabernet sauvignon (1/3 of that from Coonawarra, and 2/3 from Barossa) was blended with 1/4 shiraz from Barossa creating their version of a “super claret”.  Like many of the world’s winemakers, there is a shift towards indigenous or ‘wild’ yeast, which are naturally present on the grapeskins, to start the fermentation process. This contributes to the complexity and richness of wines, and the Caley is no

(L-R) Marcia J. Hamm, Manager of Hicks Fine Wines, Jane Ferrari, Yalumba Family Ambassador, Doug Hicks, Owner, Hicks Fine Wines

exception. No overextraction and jammy flavours were wanted, so gentle pigeage was undertaken to achieve just the right balance of colour and tannin. Yalumba is also one of few wineries around the world that has their own cooperage, the building of wine barrels for the purposes of fermentation, maturation and ageing of wine. Having your own cooperage means specific sizes, wood grains and toast seasoning levels, whenever you need them, for the perfect completion of wine!

For the 2012 vintage, the wine was matured for 22 months in a combination of both new and old barrels made of French oak; using barriques (228L) and hogsheads (300L). After bottling, the wine rested further for 36 months, and was just released 2 weeks ago, with only 5200 bottles made, 60 of those for all of Alberta! That’s how prestigious this wine is, rivaling Henschke’s Hill of Grace and Penfolds Grange for exclusivity.

What a pleasure to be able to taste this wine, and be invited to the inaugural launch of ‘The Caley’, with Jane choosing Edmonton as her starting point. Awesome! On the nose, the wine had strong notes of black currant, eucalyptus, chocolate, violets, and hints of fruitcake. The palate had smooth silky tannins with balanced acid and alcohol, with bursts of black fruits of blackberry and blackcurrant, along with black tea, cigar box and eucalyptus. All with a long, lingering finish. Stunning really, and perfectly described by Jane Ferrari as the ‘George Clooney’ wine – smooth and suave, while the upcoming 2013 vintage (can’t wait for that!), is more like ‘Wolverine’, muscular and powerful! The wine comes wrapped in tissue with a map of Fred Caley’s 18 month journey, and features a book with the history of Yalumba and the wine, all packaged in a beautiful keepsake box.

We’ll get four of these stunners sometime in the fall, and if you want to get your hands on one, it’ll be a SR of around $500.

You know you want one…

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National Sauvignon Blanc Day

Sauvignon Blanc (like malbec) can be found on many wine lists, but unlike malbec, is grown all over the world, with some famous wines coming from the French regions of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, and from the New World in New Zealand. Of course great expressions of this grape are found everywhere! The wine is typically high in acidity, and the aromas and flavours are generally all things green: grass, nettles, jalapeno peppers, gooseberry, and even “cat’s pee”. But pick the grapes early, preserving acidity, as overripeness will lead to dull wines. In fact, many producers in New Zealand pick in the middle of the night to keep the acid levels as high as possible. All of these lovely green notes, are due to the compound methoxpyrazine (pyrazines for short) while volatile thiols in the winemaking process can ease off on the green to produce aromas such as grapefruit, passionfruit, and in some cases, smoky-flinty notes. And then there’s the fact that sauvignon blanc is a parent (along with cabernet franc) to its more famous offspring: cabernet sauvignon.

For me, there is nothing like a chilled sauvignon blanc on a warm day! In my neck of the woods, I can’t really say that about today! But put the thought on hold, and when the sunshine comes, enjoy the glass of sauv blanc from whichever country you prefer!

2016 Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc– probably one of the better sauv blancs I’ve had in a long time from New Zealand, as the pyrazines are bit more mellow and the grapefruit and passionfruit aromas shine through without the “grassiness” being too overwhelming. Price is right too at only $21, you’ll want more than one!

2015 Casa Lapostolle – from Chile made by a French winemaking family, I love the tropical pineapple notes that shine through on this wine. Like the Mount Riley, well priced at $22.

2014 Roger Neveu Sancerre – from of the most famous regions for sauvignon blanc, the Neveu Sancerre sings with its laser sharp acidity, ripe yellow fruit, white flowers and granite-esque minerality. A superbly balanced, refreshing wine.

2014 Tiare Sauvignon – although Italy is not well known for growing sauvignon, its best expressions will come from Alto Adige and Friuli, both in the extreme north of the country. Cool climate sauvignon results in green pepper, lemongrass and gooseberry with high, searing acidity and a clean finish.

2014 Honig Sauvignon Blanc – from the family that only grows two grapes: sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, this wine is one of the best of sauvignon blanc I’ve ever tasted. It also has a combination of some of my favourite components: family owned, sustainably farmed and solar powered. Lees ageing adds complexity to the wine, along with a small amount of semillon to give some beautiful aromas and flavours of beeswax, jasmine and lemon zest along with the token grapefruit and passionfruit. Go big or go home on this one and pay the $33 price tag. You’ll be glad you did…

2011 Les Hauts de Smith – this baby to Haut Lafite Smith is no slouch. White Bordeaux doesn’t get much of a look, but this 100% sauvignon is unbelievable and the lots of grapes for this white are treated exactly like the ones for big brother. Every time I taste this wine, it completely blows my mind; something that a sauvignon blanc doesn’t do often. With ageing in 50% new oak barrels, and bâtonnage for 10 months, these add superb complexity with lemon curd, white peach, yellow fruit and hints of fennel. Completely outstanding! $57

For this Sauvignon Blanc day, why not pick up something you’ve never tried before? Cheers, Salud, Santé and Salute!



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National Malbec Day

French or Argentine? When you think malbec, what country comes to mind first? Is it the malbec made popular by the Argentinians where (almost) every winery in the country has one, and it’s found everywhere on restaurant wine lists? Or, do you think of the old country malbec from Cahors or from Bordeaux where it was (& still is, although not seen as much) part of the famous blends of the region? Whatever your choice, it’s a big bold wine that is inky purple in colour with high tannins, medium acidity and lots of black fruit, both sweet and savoury spice and bramble notes. Love it or hate it, Malbec is still high on many people’s list as a go-to, first choice grape. My philosophy on this grape is that it’s easy to say, therefore easy to order in a restaurant! Nobody wants to look silly when they order wine!

But seriously, even though it’s never my first grape to reach for, there are some good ones out there:

Luigi Bosca, a family owned winery, have their roots in both Italy and Spain, and one of the great families of the area, the Arizu Family. And this particular one, is under $30 on the shelf and one of the highest selling malbecs in Alberta! With notes of black plums, black cherries, and vanilla spice, it’s a perfect match for barbecue, wild game and hard cheeses.

From the Bergerac region, on the right bank of Bordeaux, this Château Laulerie Malbec may be slightly more unknown, but no less delicious! Dense with black fruits and hints of pepper, the tannins are oh so silky on this one! And the price? Outstanding at $22!

And last, but certainly not least, the Astrolabe Cahors malbec. Malbec is king in the Cahors region in southwest France. More earthy tones in the malbec here, this wine is full-bodied with concentrated black fruits, with candied cassis notes, hints of earth and spice; pair it with lamb, beef, ripe cheeses and anything with truffles! At $33, it’s one of the more expensive malbecs, but certainly worth the price!

This is just the tip of the Malbec iceberg! Not only are there the malbecs featured in the photo available for sale, but there are many, many more! Whatever country malbec you happen to reach for first, Happy Malbec Day and may your glass always be full! Santé!


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Hotel Aldobrandini 

Italy truly is a family affair. Not just in the wine business, but it seems in other areas too. Booking hotels in a foreign country can be interesting to say the least. You go by reviews, photos, and proximity to places you want to see. After being in Rome, Florence was a walkable city, so I chose something close to everything, making it easy to get from place to place.

After getting turned around somewhat on our first day, we finally found Hotel Aldobrandini, tucked away in a corner of a small piazza. After a small ascensore took us up a couple of flights, there was yet another set of steps to climb up in order to reach the front door of the hotel. Please understand that the word ‘hotel’ in Italy, is used mildly. This was no 5-star wonder with every amenity one could think of. This was your basic one room with 2 beds, a chair and a lamp kind of room. Ok, there were 2 lamps…and a small desk, but clearly this was less than creature comforts. A saving grace for this room though, was a very large window that looked out onto the street below.

The door of the bathroom didn’t quite close, there was a hole in it, and the sliding doors of the shower didn’t quite slide(as I’m adjusting them whilst IN the shower!) But after I came out of the shower, I saw my daughter, with her head out that huge window, listening as the restaurant owners clamoured for people to come sit down and eat, watching locals and tourists alike move up and down the street, the cacaphony of several different languages being spoken, and me just watching her take it all in. You see, it didn’t matter that we had to climb up a very narrow spiral staircase with 40 lb luggage, or that the bathroom door didn’t quite close, that the shower doors were askew, or that it took a special touch to flush the toilet. Watching her, and listening to her relay information about what was happening below, I knew she didn’t care either. (She was quite amused by the country music being played!) She was here. In Italy. Crossing that somewhere off of her list that she really wanted to be. We had seen the Colosseum, threw coins in the Trevi fountain, viewed the ancient crypts and catacombs, rode horses through the vineyards of Chianti, ate gelato everyday, climbed the medieval city streets of San Gimignano, looked over the city of Florence, saw the magnificent David, the works of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Donatello and Titian. We leaned up against Pisa, imagined the Palio race while standing in the middle of Piazza del Campo, visited a real life castle, drove a little Fiat like the locals, ate pizza, pasta and more gelato. There were tons of pictures taken, smiles, laughs, some good wine with dinner, and I hope, memories to last a lifetime!

With the gelato world champion (yes, there is such a thing!) in San Gimignano

But really, I am the blessed one. It was such a pleasure to bring my daughter to this country that I’m learning to love very much, and to see the wonder in her eyes at each new sight. She even tasted and sipped wine with me (and quite likes Prosecco!) it is a privilege to be her mom and to have spent this time with her. I’d give her Hotel Aldobrandini every day if I could. 

As I say goodbye to her very early tomorrow, I will miss her. I’ll miss having her by my side and I’ll miss giving her that kiss every morning to wake her! Buon viaggio back to Canada my sweet girl! ☺️ Salute!

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The Joy of Wine

I was reminded on Saturday while dining with friends why I do what I do and why I love it so much. Sometimes I just need to be reminded what the joy of wine is really all about and the reasons I named my company as such.

Of course for many of us, good wine is meant to be shared! Unlike others in the bizz, I don’t have many wines that I store or “cellar”, but I did pull one out to take over for dinner this past Saturday night, and I can say in truth, I’m glad I did!

It just so happens that my daughter is dating the son of the friends with whom we dined with on Saturday night, and this dinner date had been booked for about three weeks in advance. I know my husband and I were looking forward to the outing, the visiting, the food, and I’m sure our friends were looking forward to the wine! (Well, let’s be honest, I was too!)

We started out the evening with the Bisol “Crede” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut, along with Prosciutto, pecorino cheese, crustini with a warm mushroom truffle mix, almond stuffed olives, black olives and sundried tomato olives. A blend of glera, verdiso and pinot bianco, this was a really great prosecco with creamy rich flavours of peach, pear and apple, along with a great mineral edge – from one of the leading producers of the region. This bottle got emptied quite quickly!

I knew Bob was putting together a lasagne, but I had no idea how fabulous of a lasagne! I didn’t actually count the layers, but I’m pretty sure there were at least five. And full of meaty goodness, including Italian sausage with just a slight kick of spice on the finish. Add some more Italian crustini, a deconstructed ceasar salad, and we had a meal that any Italian himself would be happy to consume! For wine, I naturally thought Sangiovese, due to the tomato based sauce, but I also thought a Chardonnay might fit nicely too. It would have some body and acidity to stand up to the pasta dish. I had been sitting on the 2007 Yves Boyer-Martenot Mersault-Charmes Premier Cru for the past four or five years, so thought it might be time to share it, as I knew our friends would truly appreciate it! The appreciative nods and glances on both of their faces was all I needed to see that yes, I had brought something truly special -this wine was magical with aromas and flavours of baked apple and pear along with ground nutmeg and hints of lemon meringue. This 10-year old scored a perfect 10 for all of us.

The 2013 Col D’Orcia Banditella was no slouch either. This 100% “baby” Brunello hit all the right points of a Sangiovese with red cherry, blackberry, earth, spiced oak and hints of tobacco and leather. Two pretty much perfect wines to go with dinner!

Not to be outdone, the 2013 Andreas Bender Hofpäsch Riesling wowed us all with its just-the-right-balance of sweetness and acidity. An Auslese level, there was a lot of residual sugar on this wine, but you’d never know it with that laser sharp acidity behind it all, making the finish clean and crisp. Citrus lemon notes, honeysuckle and green apple with the ever present hint of petrol, paired charmingly with the lemon coffee cake and the crème brûlée layer cake!

Never have I felt so appreciated for bringing and serving wine, and to see the smiles on my host and hostess’s faces and the pleasure these wines evoked, solidified that without a doubt, I am certainly following my passion, living the dream, and working in the right place! Joy of wine in action indeed…Santé, Salute and Prost!

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