Pumpkin pairings from beer to wine

Photograph by HappyAlex, Fotolia.com

Photograph by HappyAlex, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Winter squash season is in full swing and with Halloween exactly two weeks away, it’s time to begin planning your wine and pumpkin pairings. Your neighbourhood friends will thank you for filling their travellers with the right stuff. Beer is much more commonly considered when it comes to Cucurbita and our local brew masters are running wild with it. Pumpkin Ales have proliferated province-wide. Here are four to look for.

Highballer Pumpkin Ale (132753, 500 mL, $3.95)

Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale (67710, 650 mL, $4.95)

St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale (90738, 4x341mL, $9.95)

Mill Street Nightmare On Mill Street Harvest Sampler (313916, 6x 355 mL, $13.25)

My non-judgmental, personal mien will note that pumpkin beer should avoid most foods but rather match ceremoniously with decorative gourd season, also in full swing. When it comes to the edible ‘large melon’ and its savoury, sweet flesh my go to is wine, of course. Here are four smashing whites and three alt rock reds to pair with pumpkin seven ways.

The food match: Pumpkin Oatmeal, apples, flax seed, hemp hearts, maple syrup

Jean-Marc Brocard Kimmeridgian Chardonnay 2008 (290049, $17.95) has the tropical fruit quotient of ripe banana meets chalky plantain to match up against an earthy morning porridge. There are lemon and apples sliced over Kimmeridgian, oatmeal soil. Could eat this Kimmer for breakfast, “mummy dear, mummy dear.” This supertramp of a Chardonnay explores new territory for villages Burgundy thanks to the efforts of a top-notch Chablis producer.  89

The food match: Pumpkin Pad Thai

Preiss-Zimmer Vieilles Vignes Riesling 2008 (292193, $18.95) handles spice with atomic soda ease, refreshes with a squirt of lime and garnishes with south Asian herbs. The balanced palate is off-dry and the finish is long, tangy and racy. Sails “through the changing ocean tides.” The wine smiles demurely, like a Pumpkin’s rendition of Landslide, palpitating in an unspoken message of humility and thanks.  88

Bryan Birch/Barque Smokehouse

The food match: Pumpkin Soup, coffee foam

Seresin Chardonnay 2009 (19190, $24.95) goes golden capacious and brims with both marigold and malachite toast. Cashew butter, praline nectar and cantaloupe sweeten the pot. Acidity booms and if you like a Napa style, go Marlborough here at a fraction of the cost.  90

The food match: Pumpkin Ratatouille, zucchini, spicy tomato sauce

Domaine Eden Chardonnay 2009 (296145, $27.95) imparts saffron, mandarin orange, honey and Tiger Orchid in constant waves. The golden mineral hue prickles with feeling and the wine’s fat texture helps unlatch flavours. May not have the depth of Napa or Carneros but no other region does Chardonnay in such a casual elegance like the Santa Cruz Mountains.  91

The food match: Pumpkin and Roast Chicken Paella, manchego, jamón serrano

Senda 66 Tempranillo 2008 (296475, $13.95) of fragrant, smoked blueberry and vanilla bean martini is polished, rich and pure decadence for $14. A shaken, not stirred, bad boy bisexual Tempranillo, a skyfall of purple modernity that could sooth countryman and Bond villain Javier Bardem. Get your kicks on Senda 66.  87

The food match: Pumpkin and Pancetta Risotto, toasted pumpkin seed, reggiano parmesan, basil oil

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône 2010 (729962, $15.95) shares enough black cherry and southern French garrigue to further cement its status as a perpetual good buy. So well made and boasting a puritanical litany of the terroir. Demands satisfaction in its origins of expectations.  88

The Splurge

The food match: Short-Rib and Pumpkin Braise, pearl onion, carrot

Melville Verna’s Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (291021, $34.95) speaks Santa Rita Hills vernacular, that is to say, its native tongue is that of red, very ripe fruit. The smell of baking spices (namely cinnamon and clove) stud a red plum bobbing in a spiked cola toddy. Exemplary Santa Barbara Pinot Noir.  90

Good to go!

Great whites, fall colours

The Road. Photo courtesy Kiowaman

as seen on canada.com

We are distinctly Canadian. In summer we paddle, navigating canoes through marshes, bogs and streams, traversing lakes and meandering down rivers. In the fall we are more likely to pack up the car and drive the road to northern climes, marveling at the changing season, elucidated by fall’s bright oranges, yellows and reds.

Our taste and choice in wine follows suit. When the heat is on we look to sharp, vigorous and thirst quenching white wines. Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Garganega, Riesling and Chenin Blanc. Jumping forward a month or two there will be the need for full-bodied whites; Chardonnay, Semillon, Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne. In the autumn interim we bridge the gap with Unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Grenache Blanc.

Here are six great whites for fall and for the early stages of the coming winter cold.

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Take away the oak influence and Chardonnay goes crisp and clean

The lowdown: Winemaker Richie Roberts is without peer for this method, at this price

The food match: Perfumed Chicken Broth , chinese dumplings

Fielding Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 (164491, $13.95) continues to will clear water talent for value. A revivalist po’ boy made of ascetic industrialism; efficient, reasonable and utilitarian. Drinks well down on the corner, with enhanced juicy fruit. All orchard fruit, all the time. Very satisfying for the coin. “Bring a nickel, tap your feet.”  87

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: A widely planted and signature grape for B.C. due to its ability to ripen in all three of the major regions: Island, Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.

The lowdown: This Okanagan version may be sweeter and softer than others but winemaker George Heiss Jr. has struck gold with his 2011

The food match: Warm Pulled Soft Chicken Tacos, romaine, candied bacon, caesar dressing

Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2011 (118638, $19.95, B.C. 118638, $16.99) is a purling wind of crisp, sprite Mutsu apple, honey, molasses and castile. Certainly not the pepper and spice of its Alsatian brethren but manages to lift Okanagan prurience into B.C. repartee.  88

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history: The ode to Bordeaux and the Loire is fading. Kiwi SB rocketed to stardom, went through a recession and has emerged a major player

The lowdown: Marlborough at its finest

The food match: Caprese Corn Meal Galette Tart, tomato, fior di latte and basil

Wither Hills Single Vineyard Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (288134, $21.95) coagulates sea air above Cloudy Bay, arsenopyrite and carapace to imbue the Rarangi SV with density and intensity. A white grapefruit, lime and sugar syrup sangria void of gooseberry and asparagus. A breath of Marlborough fresh air.  90

The grape: Riesling

The history: Germany’s trademark grape

The lowdown: Spätlese means “late harvest” and as a Prädikatswein it carries with it Germany’s highest quality designation

The food match: Lemon Curd Short-breads

Prinz Von Hessen Johannisberger Klaus Riesling Spätlese 2002 (295659, $21.95) of graceful, gold regal colour is a dessert wine now, for all intents and purposes. The citrus tang of acidity persists and melds into what is now a scintillating, cider apple stage. A big thanks for aging this one for us, it’s now ready to go.  90

Fall Colours. Photo courtesy Kiowaman

The Splurges

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history: From its true home in the Loire where the ancient refuse of the varietal is traced in the soil

The lowdown: Jolivet is king and this bottling is one of his finest made to date

The food match: Smoked shrimp, chive crème fraîche, garlic chips

Pascal Jolivet Les Caillotes Sancerre 2010 (287086, $31.95) starts out with subtle herbs and spice. Drifts to flint, pericarp and chalk then builds and lifts to edgy crystalline and jeweled gem. Accomplishes all its aromas and tastes with refinement. Flies away with the barrel on the longest flight imaginable for a Sauvignon Blanc.  91

The grapes: Marsanne, Viognier, Bourboulenc and Clairette

The history: Southern Rhône white blend from a house that makes some of the greatest white wine on the planet

The lowdown: Beaucastel’s “second” wine is at it’s very best in 2011.

The food match: Fresh Ravioli, sage butter, extra-virgin olive oil, reggiano parmesan

Château Beaucastel Coudoulet De Beaucastel Blanc 2011 (48892, $33.95, SAQ 449983, $30.25) may just be the lowly, new ‘second’ home of the pope (papal coach house if you will) but ahhhh…white Rhône blossoms, so many varietals, so little opportunity to taste them. This is faintly nutty like Oloroso, fragrant, and annotated for interpolations. “Smells divine,” “gorgeous colour” and “tastes great.”  90

Good to go!

Godel and Gödel: Wine and science

Grilled Cheese, Bacon, Heirloom Tomato and Feta

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The Austrian-born Kurt Gödel arguably came out with the two most important mathematical theories of the 20th century. We share a surname, but the comparisons end right there. I’ve no intention of acting out a Julie and Julia here but I will offer up some reviews that aim to illustrate Mr. Gödel’s P=NP theory and its connection to wine.

Gödel’s proof of his 1929 completeness theorem may be his lasting legacy, including serving as a basis for Calculus taught in higher learning institutions. He later wrote a legendary “lost letter” in 1956 to von Neumann that stated his famous incompleteness theorem, a proposal so complex and far-reaching that it too pertains to wine.

einstein and gc3b6del e1346074626428 Godel and Gödel: Wine and science

Einstein and Gödel, Photo by Oskar Morgenstern, Institute of Advanced Study Archives

Gödel’s theorem states that within any axiomatic mathematical system there are propositions that cannot be proved or disproved on the basis of the axioms within that system; thus, such a system cannot be simultaneously complete and consistent. To simplify, it says that a ‘system’ cannot be understood (or ‘described’) without the ‘rules’ of a ‘higher’ system. Apply this theory to fermented grape juice. Within a bottle of wine there are perceived aromas and tastes. Their presence cannot be proved or disproved. They exist in the eyes, nose, mouth and most importantly, the mind of the taster. Even the perception of colour is subject to debate. Add to that the issue of bottle variation and no critical or amateur rendering of a wine’s quality is complete and consistent. Any object (such as wine) being described is, by definition, a subset of the system in which the description is being offered.

It is true that the more you taste the probability of ability to determine the quality of a wine increases. But to be a successful critic, you have to bring life to the mainstream. Wine critics repeatedly refer to varietal correctness, to specific descriptors (licorice, cassis, graphite, generous, supple) and to terroir, that is, the land which makes the wine come to life.

Winemakers and critics make mistakes, they venture into cul-de-sacs, they hone their craft. The amateur wine drinker may intuit, but even experts sometimes forget, that modern wine with broad appeal can be considered great wine, that ideas that we now see as easy were once unknown. That is why I give all wine a chance, with an open mind. Here are some recent tasting notes:

godelwines Godel and Gödel: Wine and science

La Ferme Du Mont La Truffière 2009 (234716 , $14.30) forgoes a typical and basic Côtes Du Rhône, Grenache Blanc easy manner in exchange for a swagger of acrid punch, pop and pomp. Viognier and Clairette add depth to semi-ripe pear skin and blossom. The ardor of lemon and grapefruit are short-lived. Blanched nuts take over to signal a let up at the finish.  85

Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (293043, $16.95) has the look of pale Sahara gold, “with the salt and musk of lovers’ rich perfume.” Lip-smacking tart green apple, grapefruit and the unmistakable blanched scent of lowland Marlborough green vegetable. A Jane Austen sensibility “beyond vulgar economy, ” the Stoneleigh is sprawling SB, an Abbey hospitable to all visitors.  86

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 2011 (270017, $14.95) specifies its arid but relatively cool locale by emoting stone fruit, citrus zest and tart verdigris over tropicana. A piquant, riverine expression cutting through russet meets loam terra firma. Versatile, if not ambitious and toasted oak is not its master.  Lunch partner to grilled cheese, bacon, heirloom tomato and feta.  87

I Greppi Bolgheri Greppicante 2007 (170381, $23.95) clambers out of a primeval ooze milkshake composed of brewed coffee, currant syrup and smoked cedar chips. A Bordeaux-blend in Tuscan clothing, born of a French/Gallic avariciousness and living a life of Michelangelo terribilitta. Deep, brooding, mouth-filling, dangerous. Demands flesh.  88

Good to go!

Affordable August Long Weekend Wines

Napeague Walking Dunes

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From the exploration of the Walking Dunes on Long Island to a look ahead at the August civic holiday long weekend, wine persists as the imperative of investigation. Vines are like the barren landscape’s phantom forest of forever shifting powder, speaking of a specific idea, a philosophy, a métier. A forest of pitch pine and oak is buried over by wind driven, walking sands. Truth be told, the pursuit of wine is made possible by ever evolving vines, each unique to its local sense of place.

I go wining like the Montauketts and Bonackers who once worked these fruitful waters. I rake the releases and wine stores to unearth gems like the crabs and clams crawling in Montauk’s living waters.

The dry summer is creating a challenge to crops but the teeming ocean swells alive. Lobster, Fluke, Blue Fish, Scallops and especially crabs are abundant and well-priced. Look for these under $20 values to enliven your long weekend meals.

Soft Shell Crab, Fluke and Delmonico Sirloin

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Alsatian at heart, PG is laying down roots all over the New World

The lowdown: Arguably the finest Kiwi version I’ve found, especially at this price

The food match: Steamed Mussels in white wine, shallot, fennel and tarragon

Spinyback Pinot Gris 2010 (214569, $16.95) of sexy flesh and bone has got a lot going on for the IVR*. River walks through Maori gardens of “ginger, lemon, indigo, coriander stem and rose of hay.” Biting chalky, mineral and pear, finding the river and swimming with Notacanthus sexspinis.  89

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Lack of oak in Chablis makes for mineral-driven wines

The lowdown: Quality is rarely high at the under $20 (non-Cru) level. This could be your Wonderwall

The food match: Steamed and Grilled Soft-Shell Crab with lime aioli

Domaine Des Malandes Chablis 2010 (111658, $18.95) is a crisp, fresh, floral and tropical oasis of quality in a sea of mediocrity. The citron pressé, “back beat, the word was on the street” Malandes is endowed of high complexity and complement.  88

The grape: Fiano

The history: Ancient varietal from southern Italy

The lowdown: The unheralded whites of the Campania are one of the wine world’s undiscovered treasures

The food match: Grilled Calamari with garlic, olive oil, lemon, capers and parsley

Terre Dora Fiano di Avellino 2010 (120048, $18.95) is always good company and accompanies warm water seafood with pairing ease. Juicy, bursting citrus and tropical, tree-fruit flavours. This Fiano of one of Terre Dora’s three terrific, single-varietal whites (along with the Greco and Falanghina). This Fiano can knock on my door anytime.  89

The grape: Syrah

The history: Noble, dark as night varietal from the Northern Rhône

The lowdown: Languedoc Syrah tends to need support from Grenache and Mourvedre but this one emulates the northern style, in a top vintage and for a song

The food match: Crispy Pork Belly and parsnip pureé

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2009 (177584, $13.95) is certainly more north than south with its smokey, cured beef and pork perambulations. Depth to raise thoughts of Septaguanarian Hermitage vines of twist and gnarl. A touch of burnt rubber and varnish but all in all a heap of Syrah for under $14.  87

The grape: Garnacha

The history: Big, juicy red of French and Iberian fame

The lowdown: Under $15 Calatayud Garnacha has become a consistent go to value

The food match: Ground Sirloin Burgers with Mahon Cheese

Filón Garnacha 2010 (280602, $14.95) is actually a bit of a misprision because of its black fruit character. Re-enacts Tuscan IGT and the most modern of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Tar, asphalt, bitter chocolate and sanguine Kirsch and very, very ripe fruit. Grand oak and tons of wine at $15.  88

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Primate-like cousin to Primitivo from Italy and before that, Yugoslavia

The lowdown: Dry Creek Valley does this varietal like no other; sweet and dry.

The food match: Dry Rub, St. Louis Style Side Ribs

Pedroncelli Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel 2009 (463026, $22.95) is so toothsome and bruising you may want to eat it with a fork. A sickly sweet moment is rescued by the DCV terroir. This 15.2% abv elixir of crushed and blended berries is a single-vineyard beauty that begs a question. Why pay $50 for top-tier Zinfandel when you can go Pedroncelli?  89

The Splurge

The grapes: Grenache and Syrah

The history: Storied producer of more than 200 years located near the famous Dentelles de Montmirail

The lowdown: The best Grapillon since 2001

The food match: Grilled Delmonico Sirloin Steak with cherry tomato, avocado and black beans salsa

Domaine Du Grapillon D’or Gigondas 2010 (981787, $28.95) of inky, jet black pitch is bombastic and confidently announces itself of full extraction. Blueberry compote, macerated cherries, roasted and bleeding elk all come to the visceral mind. Sweet, viscous liquor with acidity and viscous tannin. Needs 10 years or several oxygenated hours to settle in.  91