“Budoshu Enso” – or – The Zen Gourmand’s “Wine Circle”

Budoshu is Japanese for “wine” or more specifically “grape liqueur”.
Enso is the Japanese word for “circle” but in the context of Zen, symbolizing enlightenment.

All that said, I’m inviting you to become a member of the “Enlightened Wine Circle”, an informal wine tasting/buying club of the most unique kind and by far the best wine club in all of Durham region.
Be part of a group of like-minded individuals who will get together once a month to taste a fine selection of wines in an environment of shared interest, professional guidance, advice and tutoring.
Get exposed to fine wines from around the world that are not available from the LCBO’s general list or even from VINTAGES!Experience wines in vertical and horizontal flight formats.
Taste wines you might never try on your own for any number of reasons.
Some of the themes I am working on are:

  • Organic and Biodynamically grown wines
  • New Generation Wines of Switzerland
  • Superb Rieslings of Germany
  • The top vintages of Tuscany
  • Châteaux shootout
  • Super Premium Cabs from around the Globe
  • Rare Viogniers
  • Wine Gems of Eastern Europe
  • and many more….

To join our group, please register ASAP.
There is no membership fee providing you join before September 30, 2008.
Membership after that will be a nominal $50 per annum.
Each tasting event will be by RSVP or event registration only.
Our premier event will be free of charge!
Subsequent events may be subject to an event fee that will be determined by the cost of the wines selected plus any incidental or auxiliary costs (facilities and stemware rentals etc.), prorated by the number of participants.
Any such fees are expected to range from $25 – $60.

At each event you will be able to order any of the wines tasted in case quantities (cases are typically 12 bottles, sometimes 6).
Splitting cases among members allowed.
Members may bring bottles from their own collections for tastings, however they will not be compensated for the wine 🙂

To sign up or for more information please contact me via email at wine@zengourmand.com or simply fill in the REGISTRATION FORM FOUND HERE.

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Notes on “Return To Terroir”

Last Saturday I attended “Return To Terroir” for the trade tasting of biodynamically produced wines. The tour represented about 50 of the top biodynamic wine producers in the world and included such well known names as Frog’s Leap, Grgich Hills and Benziger Family Winery of California, Domaine Marcel Deiss and Zind-Humbrecht of France’s Alsace region, Castagna of Australia, Descendientes de J. Palacios of Spain and Millton Vineyard of New Zealand.

Now, I’m not going to go into the perceived voodoo and alchemy aspects of the more extreme elements of the biodynamic farming community and I won’t be burying female cowhorns filled with cow manure or ground up quartz in my garden anytime soon, but if you believe that good wine can be made without the use of chemical fertilizers or waging chemical warfare in the vineyard to control crop destroying pests, nasty molds and fungii and a miscellany of diseases, then you should definitely try some of these biodynamically produced wines.

It turns out that like conventionally produced wines these come in drinkable and not so drinkable versions, but surprisingly to some, the drinkable versions can not only be eminently drinkable but in many cases reach the sublime, easily competing with the best in the world.
I for one am going to make more room in my cellar for biodynamically grown wines.

I was a bit pressed for time due to prior engagements so I was not able to taste all or even most of the offerings, hence my modest list below is far from conclusive and may miss out on many other excellent wines representing the BD wine category.
Nevertheless, and not in any particular order, here are some wines I could definitely recommend.

Chateau Romanin La Chapelle Romanin 2004 (Provence) ($21)
Domaine Valentin Zusslin (Alsace) Riesling Grand Cru 2004 ($56.95)
Zind-Humbrecht (Alsace) – all four presented:

  • Riesling Gueberschwihr ($39.65)
  • Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim ($43.60)
  • Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos-Saint-Urbain ($89.25)
  • Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Vendage Tardive ($57)

Compania de Vinos Telmos Rodriguez Altos de Lanzaga 2004 Rioja Alavesa ($92)

Unfortunately, some of my truly favorite ones are not available through merchants or the LCBO. These member-growers are not (yet) represented in Canada/Ontario.
One of these was a spectacular old vines Tuscan (60% Sangiovese, 20% Syrah, 20% Merlot) by Tenuta Di Valgiano. Oh well.

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Cheese Fondue – Traditional Swiss Style

The Zen Gourmand series of cooking demonstrations and tutored tastings continued on Saturday January 12th with an authentic Swiss Cheese Fondue and a tasting of three appropriate whites. Traditional convention pairs cheese fondue with wines such as Fendant, Riesling, Veltliner, Gewürtz and Pinot Gris. I chose a Peller Estates Signature Series Pinot Gris 2006 1), a Hillebrand Artist Series 2006 Gewürztraminer 2) and the Peller Estates French Cross Dry White Vidal 3) which I often use a my standard white cooking wine.

Authentic Swiss Cheese FondueThe evening got under way by cracking a bottle of Ice Cuvée (see Linzer Torte post) to get everybody in the swing. It didn’t take long for the cheeses to make an appearance for sampling as well. This included Gruyere, Emmental, Appenzeller and some pretty potent Vacherin.

While the participants were still sampling cheeses I set out to pour the wines for a blind tasting (bottles carefully wrapped in aluminum foil and at proper service temperature).

Palates cleared with bread and water, the tasting proceeded and the results were not unexpected with the Pinot Gris the winner while the Gewürtz was a bit of a disappointment barely nudging out the FX Dry.

Once the fondue was prepared (using the FX Dry as the wine component) the participants had an opportunity to evaluate the wines once more on the basis of how well they paired with the fondu.

The consensus was again in favour of the Pinot Gris with the others sharing second place.

The fondue itself was a hit and the participants were polite enough not to lick the pot at the end 🙂

You can download the recipe here.

Winemaker’s notes:

1) Hint of copper colour with a fresh, aromatic nose of peach, melon, orange and banana with just a hint of white pepper spice. A medium-bodied wine with a soft, opulent mouth-feel and flavours of honeydew melon, pear and peach. A summer-fresh finish with flavours of green apple, lemon and pear

2) Intense floral aromas and lychee notes make this classically styled Gewürztraminer easy to identify. The palate is weighty with great floral notes and a hint of honeydew.

3) Pale yellow straw; Cooked pear and yellow apple aroma. Off-dry with soft round fruit flavours and light tropical fruit notes. Easy drinking wine.

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Linzer Torte & Champagne

Saturday Nov. 17th saw another successful evening of cooking demonstrations and a tutored tasting of sparkling wines with the Zen Gourmand.

The evening started out with the wine tasting. The three sparkling wines tasted were the Peller Estates Cuvée Niagara Brut 1), Trius Brut VQA 2) and the Peller Estates Signature Series Ice Cuvée VQA 3). The latter one being the clear winner.

Linzer Torte SliceThe Linzer torte was a great hit as well. I had one made up beforehand using black currant (cassis) jam which is what the earliest recorded recipes were calling for. For the actual demonstration I used the more conventionally used raspberry jam. When the demo torte was ready to eat (a bit warm still), the consensus voted for the raspberry version. Personally, I prefer the more sophisticated and a bit tarter taste of the black currant version. If you are interested in trying your hand at one of these fabulous creations, you can download the recipe here.


Signature Series Ice Cuvee VQA1) Peller Estates Cuvée Niagara Brut:  A medium-bodied sparkling wine exhibits tiny bubbles with apple, citrus and floral aromas. On the pallet echo juicy green apples and pear followed by a refreshing citrus finish.

2)  Trius Brut VQA : A medium-bodied sparkling wine offering pretty lively mousse, refreshing acidity and follows through with citrus, apple and yeasty notes.

3) Peller Estates Signature Series Ice Cuvée VQA: A brilliant yellow/straw coloured sparkling wine exhibiting aromas of apricot and ripe apple with hints of honey and yeast. These are followed by tropical fruits on the palate and a refreshing sweet grapefruit finish.

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Wine: An Introduction, by Joanna Simon

Wine: An Introduction, by Joanna Simon
Yesterday, I was having lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in a while and when the waiter came around to inquire if we were ready to order or if, perhaps, we wanted to start with something to drink, my friend looked at the waiter and with a broad smile declared “I’ll have a glass of white Chardonnay”. I looked over at my friend to see if she was trying to make a joke, but the expression on her face told me she meant exactly what she said. I then looked at the waiter to see if he was going to make any sort of snobbish comment, but while you could notice his eyes beginning to roll, but only ever so slightly before it stopped, and a well camouflaged “oh, man” expression being held back with some considerable effort, the waiter simply stated in a matter of fact voice “excellent choice, Ma’am; and what about the gentleman, a red Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps?”, to which I responded “Yes, please. Never did like the white one.”
Once the waiter was out of earshot I turned to my friend and said “You know, when you order a Chardonnay, the assumption is that it will be white since Chardonnay is actually a white grape variety and ordering a ‘white’ Chardonnay could make you look a bit like, shall we say, a wine boob.
My friend answered “Oh, I know, I’m so bad with wines. I just don’t know anything about them except that I like white Chardonnay….oh, sorry, Chardonnay.”During lunch my friend asked my advice on how she could
learn more about wines. Specifically, she asked me what book I could recommend that would give her some basic and fundamental knowledge and advice about wines.

I didn’t hesitate for a second and immediately suggested she purchase the excellent book “Wine: An Introduction” by renowned wine writer and author Joanna Simon. This book covers wine fundamentals in a easy to read, easy to understand and approachable manner. It covers, among other things, wine styles, grape varieties, tasting wines, exploring wines, growing and making wines, buying them, storing them and pairing them with foods. The book is also nicely illustrated with high production values, great photography, graphics and charts. If this were not enough, this book is also on the required reading list of the International Sommelier Guild – Wine Fundamentals I course.


One note on “red Chardonnay’s”: There is at least one producer (Polk County’s Green Creek Winery) making a red Chardonnay by fermenting Chardonnay juice on Chambourcin skins, alas, I’ve not seen it anywhere yet.

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Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz – 2004

Last weekend I opened a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz – 2004 to accompany a few racks of barbecued ribs.
I found this Shiraz to be quite a suitable match. Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz 2004

The official notes on this wine (as per Jacob’s Creek) are:

“The wine shows concentrated juicy cherry and blackberry fruit, with fragrant spice and black pepper notes, slight mint, complimented by subtle mocha / coffee oak and toasty cedar
oak notes.”

Palate: “The wine displays intense blackberry and cherry with lively black pepper notes. It is full bodied with strong palate presence. It demonstrates soft silkiness and firm tannin backbone. Expressive Smokey cedar oak characters
compliments a wine with great length of flavour, with complex notes of blackberry and spice. The 2004 Jacob’s
Creek Reserve Shiraz owes its complexity to the integration of
moderate to warm climate ripe blackberry lusciousness with stylish cool climate black pepper and spice
characters. The enticing nature of the generous yet approachable fruit flavours ensure that the wine can be
enjoyed by those who choose to drink it now; however it has sufficient depth of flavour and density of structure to evolve further over the next 10 years if cellared carefully. ”

Well said.

On my own, I additionally found dark plums on the nose rather than juicy cherry and on the palate I found it be of medium acidity with medium rather than firm tannins. This Shiraz is full bodied and very smooth.
Overall I gave it a 4 (out of 5). It would likely improve with a bit of cellaring.

Unfortunately the LCBO appears to have delisted it at this time.
If you reside south of the border you can order it from www.Wines.com

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Vin Santo & Pear Crostata

The Zen Gourmand’s Cooking Class & Wine Tasting this past Saturday was a tremendous success and great fun. Thanks to all who attended. Your attendance, participation, contribution and support made for a wonderful evening.
We started our with introductions, light snacks and drinks followed by an overview of the evenings program.
The first item on the program was a tasting of “20 BEES LATE HARVEST VIDAL VQA“.Dessert Wine Tasting Participants were handed out a tasting notes form allowing each to assess, judge and rate and comment on each of the 3 wines to be tasted this evening.
This tasting was followed by the evenings “cooking class” during which the Zen Gourmand demonstrated the preparation of a delicious Italian pear crostata, the recipe for which can be downloaded in 2 versions.
Click here for the metric measures version.
Click here for the imperial measures version.
While the crostata was baking in the oven, we proceeded to the 2nd tasting of the evening. The wine selected for this tasting was the 2001 “POMINO VIN SANTO” from the FRESCOBALDI estates in Tuscany. This very lovely dessert wine, somewhat reminiscent of fine ports, was enjoyed by all and ultimately declared the favorite of the 3 wines tasted.
Pear CrostataWith the crostata finished and ready to sample, the 3rd wine of the evening made its appearance to be tasted alongside a slice of crostata. The wine selected for this tasting was a fine 2001 “TOKAJI ASZU 4 PUTTONYOS” (DISZNOKO estates). It was generally felt that the Vin Santo would have made a better companion for the Pear Crostata.

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20 Bees Late Harvest Vidal VQALCBO 18499 | 375 mL bottle

Price: $ 19.05
Wine, Still Table Wine, White Still Table Wine
12.8% Alcohol/Vol.

Sugar Content : 17
This is a VQA wine

Made in: Ontario, Canada

Tasting Note – LCBO
“Medium deep yellow gold colour; aromas and flavours of apricot and white peache, with pineapple/citrus notes; sweet, medium bodied, rich, yet well balanced by acidity on the finish; good length.”

Tasting Note – WINECURRENT (Vic Harradine)
“A stunning wine. It was picked at 34 Brix, a hair under the regulation for ice wine. This helps explain the generous 12.8% alcohol. The aromatic nose is honeyed and beguiling. This medium to full-bodied dazzler offers caramel, toffee, raisins with desiccated nectarine and peach. Great balance and a lengthy luxurious finish make this tasting a special experience. The price to quality ratio is tipped heavily in your favour. Sip on its own, well chilled, with your best friend.”

Serving Suggestion
Fruit cake or flan and trifle.

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01 Tokaji Aszu 4 Puttonyos (Disznoko)VINTAGES 27177 | 500 mL bottle

Price: $ 34.95
Wine, Still Table Wine, White Still Table Wine
12.0% Alcohol/Vol.

Sugar Content : 15

Made in: Hungary, Hungary
By: Compagnie Medocaine Des Grands Crus

Tasting Note – UNKN
“A lovely dark golden colour. Attractive honeyed spice on the nose and palate, along with ripe stone fruits.”

Tasting Note – WINEWRITING
“2001 (potentially very good; cool and rainy, lots of botrytis Tokaji Aszú 4 Puttonyos (8.5 TA, 110 RS) – quite complex honey melon and spice, more mushroom v exotic fat fruit; citrus peel intensity vS creamy raisins, quite developed and oxidised with acidity more in the background, forward and drinking nicely now.”

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