Wineweek 2

Every year I curse Christmas coming too early. I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. However, I generally dislike it when the holiday brochures start dropping into the mailbox mid October (or worst case late September). Year by year, I have felt the advertisement starts earlier. 2014 has been an exception. Either I have been walking around with some kind of blinds over my eyes for a month or two, or this year the advertises have taken it easy. I hope its the latter.

Now December is only one day away and I feel genuinely excited. One very good reason being this years Christmas calendar. For the past few years, M has surprised me with a “calendar” with 24 small presents (I love presents). The content has been small everyday stuff; hairpins (because I loose them with record speed), chocolate (that disappears with record speed as well) and other small things. This year he renewed the concept (picture on the top-right corner of the gallery), and I absolutely love it. I hope the wine-calendar is here to stay! It is after all, something we can both enjoy for many many weeks to come. It’s not like we will be drinking a bottle a day, but hey holidays are coming, so there is bound to be some more consumption. I will be posting on Facebook as the boxes open one by one.

And yes, what great wine-action we had this week. We tasted some oaky Cava, ruby red Barolo and special edition Lanson Champagne. I am looking forward to posting reviews on them. All in all, the week in pictures below:

 1. Looking for some good champagne glasses at NK// 2. Augusti Torello Mata Gran Reserva 2008 Barrica Brut Nature Cava, our appetizer for Fridays dinner// 3. The 2014 Christmas calendar. I cannot wait until tomorrow to open the first box// 4. Some moose to go with picture number 5 (I was not the cook)// 5. Paolo Scavino Bricco Ambrogio 2003 Barolo our Friday dinner wine// 6. Lanson Extra Age Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne, the Saturday Champagne. 

Time for tea! No wait! Tea and Champagne!

Living in London does it to you, it gets you hooked on the concept of afternoon tea (or at least me, M would perhaps disagree). Its available everywhere, with so many variations. For example there is Detox-afternoon tea with healthy finger sandwiches, Fashion afternoon tea with cakes and pastries in the shape of high heels and handbags (they do actually take the inspiration from the seasons designer collections), and even Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea which is an adventure down the rabbit’s hole. Yes,  there is much to choose from. A common denominator with almost all of them is that a glass of house champagne (or in worst case Prosecco…) can be added to the serving (and bill).

Here in good old Sweden afternoon tea seems to be becoming a bit of a trend as well. I have now seen it available in several places in Stockholm. We are not talking anything as elaborate as in London. But to be honest, that’s the way I like it. I was never really able to chuck down all the super sweet cakes and scones anyway. And here you are paying a much more reasonable price for the serving as it doesn’t include the all-you-can-eat refills (I refilled only to try to get my money’s worth and it always ended up with nausea after the experience). So for the occasion of my mother’s birthday, we reserved a table at Wienercafeét for champagne afternoon tea.

When we arrived at the Café, the doorway was packed. Packed with people queuing for a table. Annoying. I really dislike people standing around at a restaurant staring at whether you will be soon finished or not. If it’s a busy time, book a table. Luckily our table was in the back room, so we got out of the way of the hungry crowd and got to eat our delights in peace. Another benefit to the back room was that it was next to the kitchen, and you could see the chefs at work. I really enjoy looking into the kitchen to see what’s going on. M always says he feels that it keeps them honest. The only downside was that there are no windows, but hey, there is no daylight this time of the year anyway.

The champagne served with the afternoon tea package was Hatt & Söner Grande Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2006. The champagne was actually one of the reasons we selected Wienercafeét instead of another restaurant, we were curious about the champagne. The reviews online have not really been glowing, but in some cases I have sensed that some of the criticism might have had some streaks of jealousy. We call it the Law of Jante here in the Nordics and many of us suffer from it (the criticism has just not been that constructive that I could really be sure it is justified). It has influenced me in a way that I have been hesitant to buy a bottle but it was nice to get the chance to taste by the glass. What is interesting about the champagne house is that it is half Swedish, and also, all of the champagne they produce is vintage. It is not necessarily mentioned on the label, but you can see it on the bottle. I shared an office with the nice people from Hatt&Söner for a while, and we had plans of having a tasting some day, with their champagne and our cava. However we never really got around to it before everyone moved on.

The champagne was a pleasant surprise. Light in color with fresh and citrusy nose and taste, however not much depth. Perhaps that will come with age. The champagne was served nice and cold in big glasses (I love it when restaurants don’t cheap out on the size of the glass). The only thing I that would have made it better was if they would have poured the champagne at the table. I now missed the opportunity to observe (and photograph) the bottle. I think this specific vintage is no longer available at the monopoly. But! What do my eyes see – a 2008! I have loved everything I have tasted from 2008. So I must go and get a sample of that one. The price for the Grande Cuvee Blanc de blancs 2008 is 379 SEK. I do feel that there is a bit of extra on the price because it is a Swedish champagne house, but if it is to my liking, I will definitely source a few bottles for the fridge.

All in all the champagne earned 3 stars.

About the pastries and cakes. The menu was very traditional afternoon tea: Finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. It was a pretty sugar-heavy meal, but that’s what you expect of afternoon tea. On the savory plate there was Toast Skagen, chicken and salmon finger sandwiches and a small paté…something (pie or cookie). The scones came with some jam, butter and lemon curd (yum yum), and in the cakes section we had a mini cinnamon-bun, carrot cake, raspberry cake and chocolate praline. For tea you had a selection of 6 to 7 different teas ranging from a traditional Earl Grey to some White teas. We were a mixed group of old and “young”, traveled and less traveled; and there was something for everybody.

In conclusion, I think this was a value for money experience: 259 SEK without and 329 SEK with champagne. It’s unusual to get a glass of champagne for 70 SEK in this country, so I was very pleased with the price. Not a doubt in my mind whether I will try this one again (but will make sure to book the table in the back).

An Evening in Sonoma

I wish! But almost as good, an evening with wines from Sonoma at Gaston.

Last week, Gaston wine-bar had a theme week. Every evening that week they had wines from a different wine-region together with food pairings. We were not able to make it for more than one night, so we picked one of our favorite wine-regions: Sonoma. Why a favorite? Well because we have a Pinot Noir lover in the house, that’s why! We did a trip a few years back to neighboring Napa Valley, and soon realized that we were around 50 miles off. Its not that we are not fond of the powerful CABs (Cabernet Sauvignon) or Chardonnays, well maybe not Chardonnay, but Pinot Noir is something my husband (from now on known as M) really loves. I promise you, Sideways has nothing to do with this! So we did not make as many new finds as we expected to. However, we have plans to go back. And Sonoma-Night at the local favorite (favorite wine-bar I mean) was a good way for us to do some research.

Gaston is a very warm and cozy bar, so even with not that many people there (we came at 17:30) it didn’t feel empty. We got a lot of positive attention from the sommelier (who was by the way from the region) who took time to chat about the wine-list for the evening. And, we were also offered the chance to order half glasses, which I think amounts to a very good service experience. We ended up selecting six wines to try for the evening. The sliders that were meant as food-pairings had not worked out for Gaston, but we ordered hamburgers from neighboring Flying Elk (they share the kitchen) instead, so this was not really a disappointment.

About the wines in general, I can say that they were well selected. Someone had done some serious thinking around the menu. There were typical grapes from the area, with some untypical characteristics. When served, every wine was well presented, with some information about the producer and the wine in question. If one might say something was a downside, well, the selected wines were not form the cheapest end. Yes, someone who has planned for the evening, excited about tasting the wines, would not perhaps mind the price. But I think it does scale out some of the casual pop-ins’. The bar was full before 19:00, so the real fans (and there were many of them) came despite that. Business-wise, I cannot really judge the cost. As wine-entrepreneurs we also understand that there is a high costs associated to importing alcohol to this country, especially from outside the EU.

And the about the wines: in tasting order:

  1. Lioco 2011 Russian River Chardonnay: This was not at all an oaky chardonnay. Soft, delicate taste, not heavy on the oak (just the way I like it) with minerally and citrusy notes as well as hints of peaches and apricot.
  2. Broc Cellars 2012 Vine Star Zinfandel: Well-balanced, with tones of pepper and herbs both in nose and taste. Nice and notes of black and red fruit with hints of cardamom.
  3. Hirsch Vineyards 2011 San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir: Nose of cherries and anise, and a restrained flavor of sage, cherry, plum and fresh berries.
  4. W.H. Smith 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: This one makes me feel I am sitting in my dad’s library (my dad doesn’t really have a library, but you get the picture). Scent of leather and tobacco when poured, softens up after some time in the glass. Taste of Dark cherries, blueberry, plum and hmm cola? Quite dense and concentrated.
  5. Hobo Wine Co 2012 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine does not really stand out. I would say the most boring of what we tasted during the night
  6. Lioco 2012 Indica Carignan: A very juicy wine that makes your mouth water. A nose of anise and a taste of ripe fruit.

All in all, my favorites were perhaps the Lioco Chardonnay and Carignan. I did not think of making too many notes about all the producers from all of the above, but I did google a bit about Lioco. The winery will be 10 years old this year founded by two kinder-spirited wine-professionals; with an ambition to bring out more subtle tastes, using Europe as an inspiration. Another characteristic in their wines was the ambition to make them lower on alcohol (12.5%). It seems that the house does not own their own vineyards but buys grapes from different growers. They make mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and they produce both single vineyard and blended wines. A quick look at the prices online show a very sensible cost level for Sonoma wines. However locally, the monopoly website reveals that there are a only a few Lioco wines available in this country. And they are in the “special-order” selection with prices that are also not very friendly anymore. This is exactly why we started our business.

Back to Gaston, all in all great experience. The happy travelers made it home by 21:00, just in time for a good night’s sleep. Hopefully this event (or theme-week) will not be their last. Looking at the amount of people rolling in when we were already parting, I don’t think so.

A Structured Review

The topic of the day is one that is close to my heart, Structure. I am something you might call a structure junky. I make to-do lists, I feel the thrill every time I tick tasks as done, and I love the feeling of order in how I execute my day. On the other hand, I often get bored of doing the same things, so I need some change, or better said, development in my routine (so lets see how soon I want to spice things up).

When writing wine-reviews, I want to be able to compare. Additionally I would like to be able to look back at reviews I have written and have a clear sense of recollection – what did I actually think of this wine. Yes, I know, there is a global system in place for points from 1 to 100. But I don’t feel experienced enough to really use this system yet. Really, I don’t know if a wine is worth 76 or 82 points from me. It just feels like too many options. So I would rather go for the traditional one to five stars. I can always upgrade when I am more knowledgeable.

What should then determine how many stars the wine gets? The color of the wine, nose and taste of course, perhaps with sparkling, the size and durability of bubbles. Additionally, I would not like to disregard the design of the bottle. Maybe seems superficial, but it does have some affect on what I expect. Am I expecting something traditional when I see a bottle of French Pinot with the picture of the chateau on the label; or something young and spicy when I see a bottle with a label that could be considered contemporary art? I find it worth mentioning if the wine surprises me or not.

So the way this will go down is the following:

  • Facts about the wine: Producer, area, grapes, alcohol content and sugar content.
  • Bottle and design
  • Color of the wine
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Thoughts on pairings with food
  • Overall rating and value for money

Yes, I know, I am not inventing the wheel here. This is a very standard wine-review format. So no wonder it feels right for my structure hungry brain. I will also be able to compare with other reviewers.

Additionally I would like to write something about the producer. I, at least find myself more interested when I have a feel for who has produced the wine.

So let’s try it out, shall we. The test-subject of the day is the Alexandre Bonnet Grande Reserve Brut NV (Non-vintage), our Saturday night champagne.

About Alexandre Bonnet: To my disappointment, there is not that much information regarding the winery on the official webpage. Yes there are the facts: the winery is one of the more known champagne houses located in the village of Les Riceys, they have 110 acres of vineyard and the house is managed by three brothers. The rest is about the Roman influences on the area, and basically makes me yawn- just not my cup of tea. One of my favorite wine critics Richard Julin, however, writes that they do have some potential in the future. He seems to hint that the skill is there but perhaps they are just lacking the excellent grapes.  I don’t always agree with Richard, but what he does have is an amazing experience with champagnes; so I am at least curious of following up on Alexandre Bonnet in the future. Perhaps I should taste some of their vintages, a 2008 (everything from 2008 I tasted has already been great; emphasizing the word Already) if and when it shows up.

 

The bottle and design are quite plain. It really doesn’t tell me what to expect, perhaps standard champagne. The bottles are however packaged in extra cellophane and with that stand out from the shop shelf. I think this makes as a good gift if you are just picking up something on your way to an event.

Some facts about the wine: It is a mix of Pinot Noir (80%) and Chardonnay (20%), the alcohol content is 12,5% and the sugar content 9g/l. Here I must complement their website, the information regarding their wines is presented in a very nice way, with a lot of information and some suggestions on food pairings. The color is gold and the scent discreet with hints of green apple, grapefruit and maybe pear. It gets softer when the champagne has waited in the glass for a while. The taste is fresh and young of apples and lime. Overall, a pretty standard champagne.

Now value for money, this is a different thing; 259 SEK at the monopoly (also available in magnum size 499 SEK, even cheaper). I think that just earned Alexandre an extra half a star. If I was having a party, I could imagine serving this as an aperitif. Not too heavy on the wallet and something I would assume is liked by almost everybody. And yes, for me this is an aperitif, I would not pair it easily with food. Not at least with my current experience. But the website gives some suggestions that I believe make a good start for picking something to eat with the wine. All in all, I would like to give this wine 3,5 stars.

So here is what you can expect from my reviews. Suggestions on what else you would like to hear about are welcome. I run a never ending improvement program. Not to say I am not happy with what has been achieved or with what I have; on the contrary. I just get excited about new ideas and improvements even to the smallest things; this not being small, but the actual purpose of my blog, reviewing wines. So go ahead, share your ideas!

Wine-week no 1.

I have now been following and reading different kinds of blogs for about a year. Yes, I know, I am catching on late – it is a bit of trend in many things these days I must confess. When it comes to social media, I am still taking baby steps. It didn’t use to be like that, but with age I can see that I am becoming less and less of an early adopter. I can already see that day when I am completely out of it on what the 20 something’s are up to. However, when that day comes, I will enjoy the ignorant bliss with a good glass of wine.

Back to the actual topic: blogging. What I like about many of the blogs I follow are their weekly recaps in pictures. I don’t mind that the content is not very deep; it is a way of remembering all the good moments one had during the past week. I am like a train, always on my way to the next station, so a small recap is a great way to linger in the moment for just one more day.

So I would like to start a tradition. A tradition of posting some pictures of great moments with food and wine from the past week. You can consider it a sneak peak on what I will review or write about in the following days. When I have done some more research, perhaps I can also add some interesting news around the topic. But to start with, here is Wine-week no 1 in pictures.

From the upper left corner: Enjoying Sonoma-night @ Gaston// Alexandre Bonnet Grand Reserva Brut// Champagne Afternoon Tea @ Wienercafe// Just another weeknight with non-alcoholic delights// Cheese shopping for some great wine pairings// Great Sonoma wines in a row.

The Start of the Journey

Let’s make this clear from the start; I am not an expert on wine! I’m not a sommelier, I haven’t worked in the industry and I am not even very knowledgeable when looking at the scope of information one can have on this subject. I am just wine-curious, and this is my journey to discovering what it is like to take a hobby one step further.

About a year ago a friend of mine asked me if I would like to start scoping the Swedish market for a product (cava) he already sells in other countries. I was very excited as this was my favorite bubbly, and I had been suffering of a severe lack of it for several years (living in countries with no importer for it).  So, if nothing else, I thought, I would be able to import it just for me. Hmmm. the pallet would last me for some time, but we had cellar-space. Luckily the reaction from my friends and acquaintances was the same as mine, many of them loved it; loved it so much, that they were ready to buy cases of it.

However, this experiment opened another door; a door to realization of how many other wines it would be great to get my hands on. The local monopoly store is a great shop, don’t get me wrong, but in today’s free-market environment, I object to someone else deciding the menu I can choose from. Even with an endless selection, there was a whole world of wine out there calling for me.

So now it’s done! We recently started a company with my best friend and partner in crime, my husband. The company was founded in Denmark and will start selling small producer wines within the EU; wines that have no chance at ending up on the shelves of the monopoly-shop and are somewhat different from the main-stream products on the market. We start this journey as a hobby, but a hobby with an ambition to grow it into a healthy business. We have very little idea on what we are getting ourselves into, but it is the journey that is exciting, not only the result. Even with all the, hmmm, negative talk about running your own business, I still have confidence in entrepreneurship. Even if we finish this journey with no profit, we will be richer due to the experience.

Skol! For the start of the journey.
Skol! For the start of the journey.

So what can you expect from this blog? Wine reviews of course! But also thoughts on restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Writing about food and tastes. And a story about how to run (or how not to run) your own business in wine. I will of course be writing about the wines we will sell, however, I think it’s important to recommend other good products as well. Not so much for our own business, but to boost people’s curiosity in wine and help people find the great products that are available out there. There is not that much about my personal life, I’m afraid, but that’s not that exciting anyways. The ambition is to share what I discover and learn and have some fun while doing it.

Hopefully you will like it and find yourself excited about the journey too!