Rimarts – True Artisanal Cava

On one of our recent trips to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia we finally managed to visit Rimarts. We have been very fond of this producer of cava for a long time and we are of course ecstatic to be able to add them to selection of wines that we are now making available to our customers in the Nordic countries (see here for our current range).

Rimarts is a family operation to the core with the two brothers Ernest and Ricard running the business that their father Ricard Martínez de Simón started. The business is also named after him. The idea for the founder was to produce high quality cavas using true craftsmanship. Father Ricard was convinced that it is vital to control every step of the production process and that the best way of doing that, and ensuring a high quality, is to do as much as possible by hand. Most of the equipment used today is the same as it was when the business started so it is a really nice experience to tour through the small facilities.

Ernest showed us around the full production and even showed us how to disgorge and cork (remove the temporary cap and put in the natural cork) a bottle by hand. It is a pretty impressive process and I am sure that I would not be able to do it as nicely as Ernest. He reveals that there is however a lot of practice behind his talent. Ernest explained that when he and Ricard were kids they were always upset that they had to help with the production and were not allowed to be out and play as much as they wanted. Today they (and we) are happy that they were made to practice as much as it enables them to produce this great cava. Today Ernest and Ricard are the ones mostly involved in the business but their mother and their single employee also helps when it is time to disgorge and bottle. Just imagine, your bottle of Rimarts being stacked, turned and corked by hand. This process is done upon order.

Here is a short video about Rimarts that also shows a bit about how the productions is done:

The philosophy behind production is the same today as when they started production in 1987. They want to satisfy the most demanding palates around the world. Rimarts strive to respect natural processes, and they have an ecological approach to the production. They also apply a lot of patience in the production and rather age cava a bit longer to improve the taste and provide maximum expression. The cava is ready when it is ready.

As Ernest told us, the passion for the land and the fruit combined with their knowledge of the craft of making cava is what goes into each bottle. They are however not strangers to innovation as for example the Rosae cava shows. It is a most unusual cava that has a bit of smokey flavor – it is like nothing I have tasted before, developed together with a Michelin-starred chef. Interesting and great with some jamon or perhaps even with smoked fish. We have sampled the full range of cava and from their entry level (the Rimarts Reserva 18) up to the most premium one (the Uvae) they are all fantastic wines.

It is hard for me to pick a favorite as I think these are all good cavas but the Rimarts Gran Reserva 40 is perhaps my (and S’s) favorite one. It has bright gold color with very fine, persistent bubbles. Aromas of ripened fruit, notes of ageing, toasted nuts mix with hings of yeast and brioche. Perfectly balanced with a long and pleasant finish. For me it also show cases why cava is a perfect match with lots of food and also shows that the best cavas can compete with almost all other sparkling wines around the world. I will happily have a Rimarts  cava for any occasion..

Guide to the best cava – Part 1: Entry-level

As spring is here (at least if you look at the calendar) and summer is nearing many people start drinking more sparkling. While I am not at all opposed to drinking sparkling wine all year round I still thought it is a great time to write a series of recommendations on good cavas in different price ranges (for those of you who are not familiar with cava I can recommend reading this introduction or for more in-depth information the web site of the cava lady, http://annawallner.se/cava-facts/). This post was inspired by the great series of post on the Talk-a-Vino web site on the best Spanish wines in different price ranges (the first post in that series is here: http://talk-a-vino.com/2015/03/24/spanish-wine-recommendations-part-1-wines-under-20/).

There is an enormous range of cava on the market and it is available from many different suppliers and prices vary greatly from market to market so to make it a bit manageable I have set up some ground rules for the selection. As Sweden and Finland are currently our home countries we have only included cavas that can be found here (either at the monopoly or through one of the online wine merchants). We have also excluded cavas that are only available to consumers at restaurants (and frankly looking at what they charge for wine at restaurants in the Nordics it would not really make a difference in the recommendations here).

The recommendations will be split into three parts. The first one (the one you are now reading) is what I like to call entry level cava and that will be cavas prices below 130 SEK (or approximately €14). The second will be cavas priced from 131 SEK and up to 200 SEK (€14-22) and the third one is above that.

Even for entry level cava there is an abundance of wonderful options. In general these will not have the same complexity as some of the more expensive wines but many of these provide excellent value for money and to me there are better options here than for substnatially more expensive Champagne and other sparkling from France and other parts of the world. Even more so I think it is well worth spending a bit more than the absolute minimum that buys you the cheapest cavas (I am thinking the likes of Freixnet and Codorníu) and get something actually drinkable

Anne Marie Reserve Brut Nature Reserva from Castell d’age: 127 SEK at Systembolaget
Castell d’Age is these days run by Olivia Junyent, the third generation of women from the family making cava and other wine. This specific cava is made from 40% Macabeo, 40% Xarel.lo, 20% Parellada. It is a brut nature so dry but it has clear notes of ripe fruit, apple and citrus. Nose has hints of toast, fruit and nuts. Lacks a bit complexity and not as elegant as more high-end cavas but at this price it is a great cava.

Castell de Vilarnau Brut from González Byass: €9.73 at Alko.
Vilarnau is one of the estate I am very fond of. Not only do the make great cavas but they are also incredibly friendly. Unfortunately not yet available to consumers in Sweden (one of the restaurant wholesalers offer this specific cava so it is possible to find it in some restaurants). It is made from 55% Macabeo, 40% Parellada and 5% Xarel-lo. While it is a not a brut nature it still dry. The flavor is fresh with hints of citrus and apple. The nose has notes of white flowers and green apples. Pleasant to drink and good value for money.

Cava Blanc de Noirs 1+1=3 U Mes U Fan Tres from 1+1=3 U Mes U Fan Tres S.L: 99 SEK at Systembolaget.
85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. This is not a remarkable cava but as it is priced under 100 SEK it deserves a mention here. It is dry with fairly pleasant notes of red apples, orange, nougat and a bit toastiness.

Parellada i Faura Reserva Brut Nature From Cellers Carol Valles: 125 SEK at thewinecurious.com / thewinecurious.tictail.com
This entry level cava is from small family producer Cellers Carol Valles and it really proves that all the cavas from them are really good. The Parellada i Faura Reserva has been aged for between 15-18 months. It has been produced with the traditional grape varieties used for cava production Parellada (60%), Macabeo (30%) and Xarel·lo (10%). It has no added sugar. This is an amazing value for money cava. It competes in quality with sparkling wines that are twice the price or more. It is dry with fine and lively bubbles. Ripe and savory aroma of peach, melon and apple. Flavors are fresh with hints of citrus. Clean and vibrant palate with long finish.

Segura Viudas Lavit Brut Nature 2012 from Segura Viudas: €12.49 at Alko
Macabeo 60% and Parellada 40%. It has nice nose of apple and citrus and on the palate it is dry with hints of buttery notes and dried fruits. A nice entry level cava from one of the bigger of the mid-sized cava producers.

Cellers Carol Valles
Parellada i Faura Brut Nature Cava

These are my top picks in the entry level category. The two last ones are the ones I hold as the best in the category but all of these are good cavas that I would enjoy a glass or two of. What is interesting to note is that out of the ones I have listed only two (the 1+1=3 and the Segura Viudas) are available to buy in the store. All others have to be ordered, and speaking from experience that is also often true of the ones that should be available off the shelf. That is however the way the monopoly can play things and there are not really any options for the consumer when it comes to physical stores. There are however luckily good options online.

This was the first part of the best cavas. Two more to follow but if any of the readers have your own recommendations please do share.

Coffee Bar Review: Tamper & Co, Singapore

This cafe on Rangoon Road appears to be trying to jump the bandwagon of the trend of specialty coffee bars in Singapore in general and Rangoon road in particular. It looks very much like what you would expect one of these places to loo. Pretty sleek design, nice atmosphere and cool looking logotype outside.

They call themselves Brew Bar Tamper & Co Handcrafted Coffee so imagine my surprise when they do not do any hand brewed coffees. While I do no actively dislike espresso based beverages I do in general find them more boring and when a place includes brew bar in the name I would at least expect them to do one filter coffee. This was not the case here but to be fair they seemed a bit embarrassed about it and they claimed that they were planning to start with hand brewing. I also tried to order the cold brew listed on the menu but that was sold out (not sure if it has ever been available) so in terms of the selection they did not fully impress.

The lack of appealing options made my consider whether to leave and head to Old Hen Coffee Bar next door or Jewel down the road I opted to give them a chance and ordered an iced latte. It is a fairly forgiving drink as the milk can be used to mask some failures in coffee quality. The friendly staff quickly made sure it was made, checked if we wanted any sugar in it (of course not but really appreciate them checking). In general the staff were super friendly and worked fast.

The iced latte arrive quickly and first impression was that it looked nice. Flavor-wise it was however a bit of a disappointment. It lacked interesting flavors, no real bitterness but also a bit bland. It is of course a risk when using this much milk. I would say it qualifies as ok and by far better than what you would get at a chain like Costa, Nero or Starbucks but still not good enough to be specialty coffee. I also sampled an espresso and it was nicely pulled, nice crema and while not exciting in any way it was made with fairly good skill and decent beans. They do however need to work on their coffee offering and potentially also a bit on their skills. Food is on offer here and the few things I sampled suggests that it is perhaps a much better choice.

They were very friendly so I hope they can fine tune their operations in the months to come as I would otherwise be a bit surprised if this would fly. The competition in the area is pretty sharp so if they are to make it I think they need to up their game considerably. The area is up and coming but there are not a lot of people just walking past so it is necessary to also have something that pulls in the crowd.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 2
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 2.5

Wineweek 26: May Moments in Stockholm

May is always a confusing month in the Nordic countries. You are on the doorstep of summer, however there is still a cold wind reminding you that you are not there yet. This morning I woke up to a cold looking rain that is showing no sign of stopping. So this might be one of those days that I just stay inside. But there is much work to do. We are holding our open house tasting in a weeks time and we want everything to be ready for the new collection: samples, accessories (like coolers and spit buckets), not to mention the information on our webpage. This long weekend we have updated our webshop and it looks awesome! Much better than it did before. We work with a free online platform, Tictail, so there is so just so much one can expect. However functionality-wise, it’s nice and simple, and it works (as opposed to not working).

Optimists enjoying the weather in Stockholm
Optimists enjoying the weather in Stockholm
Cherry blossoms in Stockholm
Cherry blossoms in Stockholm

The wine week has been pretty awesome as well! We were on the Viking Line ferry on Thursday for one purpose and one purpose only, to buy wine. We had read up that the collection was decent and prices very good for the wallet. Also a friend of ours tipped us off that there are often other bottles there as well, not mentioned in the online catalog. The ferries traffic between Stockholm and two big cities in Finland, Helsinki and Turku. We hopped on a boat going to Turku, hopped off on Åland (and Island between Sweden and Finland) and boarded the boat going back. This took all day, however in the end it was worth it. I will write a separate post on shopping on the boats, but in short, it was a gold mine. The name behind the Viking Line wine selection is Essi Avellan, Master of Wine and undoubtedly the most recognized wine-personality in Finland. The tax free shop did not offer much on the shelves, but when we asked around for a few bottles we had read were supposed to be there, the staff dug them up out of the storage. Also, the Food Garden, the a la carte restaurant, had it’s own little wine boutique selling some very nice grower champagnes. These bottles were on no list, and we were lucky to be there a week after the storage had been filled up. That evening we disembarked Viking Amorella with 10 bottles of bubbly of the likes of Selosse, Agrapart & Fils, vintage Charles Heidsieck etc. It was not a cheap trip, but all bottles ranged between 20-40% cheaper than what we would have been able to buy them for on land.

Another interesting event this week was yesterdays beer brewing. We were invited by Yelp to a small event at Cafe Proviant, a brewery and a pub here in Stockholm. We followed as the brewmaster, Roger, introduced the equipment and the ingredients, and prepared the beer for brewing. We saw all the steps to making beer while sampling the pub selection of drinks and food. A very nice venue and a fun event. I could imagine this being something fun for a birthday (or bachelor) party. I am slightly worried though as I saw M eyeing the equipment with that look of “if we just had an extra room…”. Although, it would be quite fun having your own beer. We could call it the Beercurious.

The fine wine shop on Viking Grace
The fine wine shop on Viking Grace
The Brewmaster evaluating his work at Cafe Proviant
The Brewmaster evaluating his work at Cafe Proviant

Next week will be exciting. I am looking forward to seeing how our new collection will be welcomed and of course how sales start of. We have also set up a few new payment options that will hopefully be nicer for the customer. Earlier, we have only had an option of either bank transfer (an old fashioned invoice) or credit card via PayPal, which are both slightly annoying. For using PayPal, one needs to create a user account and that just seems like a waste of time for making one payment. So we hope that this results in a better shopping experience. We have also made some summer-packages for people to stock-up for their cabin or boat. It really feels like that the business is starting to take off.

That is it for this Wineweek! Hopefully summer will arrive soon to bless the terrace-season (for real). Next week, I will be writing quite a lot about our new selection, introducing the wines that we have spent so much time on finding. In a few weeks we will also be heading for a short trip to Shanghai, which I am sure you will hear much about.

Wine-up Your Event

Like weddings? And other big events? Me too! However, I seldom find the wines served very interesting. It is not easy arranging quality drinks for a hundred people without it being heavy on the wallet. A few weeks back, we attended a wedding in Finland that was a pleasant exception. I kind of knew it would be as the couple are as winecurious as me (and the groom revealed what would be served as aperitif even before the date was set). Actually, their big day did not only have a serving of good wine, the whole event was organized to reflect the couples interest in the topic. I really loved these details and thought it would be nice to share them with you (with the couples consent of course). So here are a few tips on how to “wine-up” you event.

1. Accessories: The theme was reflected already at the church as small bottles of bubbles were handed out to greet the newlyweds exciting the building. The small champagne bottle soap bubbles were elegant and cute and I was able to snatch one home. The space also had some nice wine-details, like the place-card holders and wine bottles candlesticks.

2. Games: The couple was intent on serving good and interesting wine on their big day, but that kind of bottles come with a price. However, they have a very nice wine cellar that they decided to utilize for the occasion. As there were no wines in the cellar reaching the number of bottles required to serve everyone, they picked different bottles and held a wine-quiz. The winning group (of around 6 people) could go to the table and pick a bottle first, the second could go second and so on. The quiz was more about the couples wine-adventures than actual wine-knowledge, so one didn’t need to be an oenologist to win (luckily we had one in our group though as it came handy in some of the questions regarding the couples cellar). A wonderful and fun game with a prize I really wanted to win. We picked a great 2003 shiraz from Kay Brothers. It was a real treat with the lamb main course.

3. Beverages. For beverages, the couple invested in a great aperitif (and of course the wine game). They had bought magnum bottles of Palmer & Co Vintage (2002) Champagne. A magnum is often a better buy than a regular 0,75l bottle and for a big event, it makes sense to open some. Other wines had been selected by arranging wine-tasting among friends before the big day and by ordering larger quantities online. Finland is an expensive country when it comes to alcohol, so utilizing the free movement of goods within the EU, many nice wines are found cheaper in eg Germany and France. One must be aware of the customs rules though, so read up before you make your order. A good tip is also to take a cruise on the boats between Finland and Sweden. Many nicer wines can be found on the boat tax free. Bring friends though, as the maximum amount of alcohol that one can bring to land is 4l (5 bottles each).

A cozy atmosphere, wonderful wines and great friends: a memorable day indeed. We are already married, but if we ever arrange a big event, this is what I want our day to look like. And even before that, I am snatching the idea of the place-card holders.

The Road So Far and a New Selection

When I started this blog, it was meant to be about the business. The business of selling wine that is (Introduction to the journey here). Along the way I started writing more about other wines and restaurants. I like getting tips about new places, so it was mostly about sharing it with fellow foodies and the wine curious. There is not that much to write about the company to really fill a blog (yet). However, today I would like to move the focus back to the business and write about something exciting, our new selection.

Our business started around one excellent product, the Llagrima d’Or cava. We did our research on the Swedish market and came to the conclusion that this product would fill a gap. A premium cava was not unheard of, however the selection was (and is) weak. The selection may still satisfy the masses, but not the quality conscious consumer who does not want his/her cava pumped up with sugar to hide the compromises made with the production. Small producers are often artists, they make something that they can be proud of and want to have on their own table every weekday and the weekend (in Spain cava is an every day drink). These small producers however do not have the volumes to make it into the shelf’s of (one of) the worlds largest buyer (Systembolaget).

After two years of planning, sampling, paperwork and some personal investment, we have moved forward. Next week our updated web shop will feature five new and exciting producers from Spain and Portugal: Rimarts, Cellers Carol Valles, Antonio Madeira, Quinta do Escudial and Quinta da Pellada. All of our new partners are small, family owned vineyards with a vision and a passion for making honest wines. With honest we mean that the wines have a minimal amount (if any) added sugar, they are mostly produced without any oak (or at least without excessive use of it) and often with as natural processes as possible. The focus is on good ingredients and no compromises on the time or effort that it takes to make the wines. We have visited them all, roamed around their vineyards and spent hours studying their production. Not to mention all the hard work we have done with trying out their wines (*smirk*). So here are a few teasers on our upcoming selection and we will be writing more about each producer the coming weeks.

1. Rimarts is a company owned by two brothers, Richard and Ernest. They have learned the fine art of making cava by following in their father’s footsteps and are today using the same equipment for their production as he did back in the day. When touring the Rimarts cellars, Ernest was joking about all the other kids going out to play football while he and his brother had to sit in with their dad and bottle cava. The Rimarts wines are disgorged by hand and all except for the the 18 month cava (which has a very small dosage) have no sugar added. Our initial selection will feature three different bubblies from them, the Rimarts 18 month (Brut Reserva), 24 month (Reserva Brut Nature) and 40 month (Gran Reserva Brut Nature) cavas.

2. When we pulled into the drive way of Cellers Carol Valles, we felt like we were entering someones home. That’s because we were. Joan Carol greeted us with the family dog and a boy from the neighboring house to translate from Catalan to English. He had fit a very impressive production line in the cellar of his family home and greeted visitors in a small tasting house next to the living quarters. He told us that most of his cava is sold at that property with hundreds of locals stopping by every now and then to fill up their cellars. He houses an impressive selection where even the entry level wine is a Reserva Brut Nature. Our selection for the summer will include the Parellada i Faura (Reserva Brut Nature, the Guillem Carol Extra Brut and Brut Nature (Gran Reservas) and the Guillem Carol Gran Reserva Barrica (a cava with a light oaky flavor).

Rimarts Cava
Tasting wines at Rimarts
Rimarts Cava
Ernest showing us how to bottle cava
Cellers Carol Valles
Cellers Carol Valles

3. A Frenchman with a Portuguese descent Antonio Madeira is the rising star of Dão. He currently sells just one wine (more are coming) and he makes it well with natural techniques (no additives or pesticides). Antonio has a vision, he wants to bring out the terroir in his wine and he seeks out old vines to do this in the best manner. Our selection will feature, surprise surprise, his best (and only) wine, a light and sophisticated red made from old vine. As with many older vineyards in Portugal, there is an abundance of grape varieties growing in the field so the exact number of grape varieties is not easy to get to.

4. Feeling that there was something missing from the market, Quinta do Escudial is producer making solely no-oak wines. It is a family business to the core. The wine is made by the father of the family, the finances are handled by his wife and sales by their son. Our selection will be featuring their Branco (white), Tinto (red) and the Vinhas Velhas (old vine red). When we visited them we sampled the full range of wines and these are truly extraordinary wines that really proves that it is not necessary to use oak to make fine Portuguese wines. These wines are really nice in the way that they are all great on their own as well as with food.

5. Alvaro Castro, the owner of Quinta da Pellada is ‘The’ winemaker who brought Dão back on the wine-map. Originally a civil engineer he inherited his family’s vineyards in the 1980s and changed profession awakening a family tradition that had been dormant for a generation. Today his daughter Maria is also very much active in the business and she will ensure to carry the family tradition on. Our selection will be featuring wines from the vineyard the family lives on, Quinta de Saes. We will have the Saes Red, The Quinta de Saes Rose (for the summer) and the Encruzado White. They also have several other brands and we hope to expand our cooperation with them in the future as their high-end wines really deserve an audiance and once tasted it is difficult to not just want more of them.

All in all, we are increasing our selection from two excellent wines to 17: nine cavas, five reds, two whites and one rose. Some wines are available in very limited quantities (due to the small production) so orders will be processed in the order they come in.

All in all, I think we have managed to create a good selection. We have a working supply chain, a logo, website and enough samples. What you can really see is that this company has been put together by two procurement professionals, with a high emphasis on the back end of the supply chain, contracts and working partners; and an entertaining lack of focus on sales. So now we are really stepping out of our comfort zone and introducing to the world what we have done. We are hoping that good quality will sell it’s self, and in time our customers will learn to trust our judgement.

However, this will not come free and to give it a push we are arranging an open house tasting next week Saturday in Stockholm to introduce our wines. In case you are interested in joining, then send us a message to info@thewinecurious.com. This will be the best sales period (yet) for our company yet, and I am looking forward to all of the feedback people can give us about our new selection.

Cocktails and Ships at Bottles Pop-Up Bar, Stockholm

Imagine old wooden chairs and tables, figureheads and miniature ships. And imagine holding a rum cocktail with zesty lemon peel and a huge ice cube floating in the middle. There is no music, just steady murmur coming from the other tables and the clinking of ice against your glass. There is no rush, and the calm bar invites you to relax.

Bottles Pop-Up bar is all about the drinks. It is run by three Stockholm bartenders with merits from Little Quarter, Shibumi and Lilla Nygatan. The Pop-Up bar has an interesting concept, it moves around within the Gamla Stan restaurant scene, and the theme changes with every venue. Right now it is located in the Victory Hotel (the Congress Center) and houses a theme loyal to the venue style. I have previously written to you about Tweed, the semi-speakeasy cocktail bar inside the hotel (review here). Bottles current style is similar, however it feels less clubby and more genuine. Other venues will include restaurants (by the same owner) in the Gamla Stam/ Lilla Nygatan are: Pubologi, Djuret, Svinet, Lejontornet, Tweed and Burgundy.

I was at Bottles for some afterwork drinks with fellow Yelpers. We arrived early, around 6pm and had no trouble finding a seat. Ok, we even had a reservation, but we would have found a seat nonetheless. We were offered a drinks menu with around seven different cocktails that all were named after ships of past and present. Ingredients included all of the usual suspects: rum, gin, tequila and bourbon. I was perhaps a bit disappointed that the spirits used were quite main stream: Bacardi, London Dry and other big brands (very un-hipster). The mixers were the ones to set the mood with tastes of rosehip, marinated fruits and ginger ale. Every cocktail was named after a boat and had a story, which the bartenders introduced when serving the drinks. I had a Carina II with variations of old wine (tasted a bit like fortified wine), grapefruit and champagne, and a Rumbullion with Bacardi, Havanna Club, Captain Morgan, Barbancourt and Gunroom and Sour. Both cocktails were very good and fit the historic atmosphere of the hotel.

All in all, a fun concept with spiced with tasty drinks and great service. I am already excited about where the bar moves next and looking forward to exploring what kind of drinks the other venues have to offer.

Sunday Ramen at Blue Light Yokohama

There are two occasions when I feel like ramen: after I have had too much wine, or after I have had no wine (which would imply that I have been sick). For some reason both of these usually happen on a Sunday. This Sunday it was the case of the latter. And to spice up the experience, I made the mistake of leaving our home without an umbrella. Nothing beats hot ramen when your pants are all soaking wet.

Blue Light Yokohama is a Japanese restaurant here in Stockholm serving only ramen on Sundays. It has a real Japanese vibe, friendly staff and tasty food. The selection on Sundays is not broad, usually two types of ramen with a choice of meat or vegg. You can top up your meal with starters, edamame or japanese pickled vegetables, and some chicken karaage with rice; and you can order desserts from the a la carte. For drinks they have some Japanese beers: Sapporo, Kirin and Hitachino Red Rice Ale and Ginger Ale. They do also have some wine, but even the adventurous wine-blogger has to say at this point that I don’t recommend it. A restaurant that categorizes Prosecco as a white wine should stick to serving other beverages. The Sencha tea (their basic green tea) is wonderful and a cold beer is the perfect pairing with the hot ramen.

Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
The dining room
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
Tables for bigger groups
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
The tea is served from a cup with all the heads of the Japanese prime ministers
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
Hitatchino Ginger Ale
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
Pork-blackpepper ramen
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
The miso-vegg ramen
Blue Light Yokohama Stockholm
Yuzu Ice cream

On Sundays, Blue Light Yokohama opens at five in the afternoon. We were the first ones to arrive, my friend and I, and it was no trouble getting a table. However, after 10 minutes the place was full. Especially if you are a bigger group, I would recommend booking a table. They have some nice Japanese tables where you take off your shoes and all. A genuine experience. We ordered the two types of ramen they had on the menu: The pork-blackpepper (clear) broth with spring onion, and the thick miso-vegetable broth with pork and corn. Both wonderful and exactly what you need in the raw spring weather. We also ordered some edamame to share and my friend took the extra karaage with rice. The ramen its self is very filling so any side dishes are pure greed. We also warmed up with some green tea, and I tried out the Hitatchino Ginger Ale. Regardless of the high alcohol content (8%), the beer was light and fresh and a great pairing with the salty pork broth. Nope, we didn’t stop there, we also ordered some desserts. I took the white sesame brule and my friend the yuzu sorbet. The brule was a wonderful experience with tastes of sesame, nuts and burned butter (that is basically what it is made of right), and the yuzu sorbet was like a fresh breeze (great for a hangover I would say).

I must admit, Sundays is the only time I have visited this restaurant, so I can only comment on the ramen menu. For the price (around 130 SEK) it is value for money so a welcome option to making food at home when you are under the weather.

Coffee Bar Review : Good Life Coffee, Helsinki

In some ways it feels as if Helsinki is becoming one of the more exciting coffee destinations, if not in Europe at least in the Nordics. Good life has been around for a while and has always been a solid option for a good cup of coffee.  They used to offer a variety of mainly Nordic roasters and as such was a very interesting place to visit as the selection rotates. They are these days roasting themselves and doing it well but what is really great is that they still take some other roasters in occasionally to provide some variety.

Good Life Coffee is located in the Kallio area in North Helsinki. The area as such is increasingly attracting a hipster crowd and of course Good Life Coffee is no different. It is still however pleasant and relaxed so I really like the vibe. It also has very friendly and knowledgeable service so always possible to have a nice chat with the staff. They are a great source for information on what goes on at the Helsinki coffee scene. The free WiFi also makes it a good place to sit for a bit longer.

The quality of the coffee is consistently very high. I usually go for something hand-brewed but the espresso based beverages are also very nicely prepared.

There are very nice pastries and cookies as well as breakfast and sandwiches. No real hot food but the stuff they have is good. There is also some very nice chocolate and locally produced juices.

So how does it rate:

Coffee Quality : 4
Service & Ambiance : 4.5
Food: 3.5
Vs local average : 4.5

Wineweek 25

The lazy weekend after a hectic week, this is what I am enjoying today. Just sitting around reading newspapers and eating pizza. To be honest I caught the flu on Friday and have been forced to rest, otherwise I might have arranged some more action. M is in London this weekend for a football trip, so I have been circling around the wine fridge contemplating what to open just for me. It’s not like we have that many bottles there that I would dare open alone. Not because I could not consume it, but rather all bottles in the fridge are there because both of us want to have a taste. So tired and slightly fluish (my taste buds are not at their sharpest) I actually opted for tea instead of wine. Next week will only be a three day work week, so I am sure that there will be wine soon enough.

Petrus Bakery Söder STockholm
Some coffee and pastries at Petrus, Söder
Maria Torget Stockholm
Taking a sunny walk in Söder
Maria Torget Stockholm Sweden
Flower shopping

I have some exciting news to share with you this week as we will be opening a new sales window for Sweden next week. We will also be doing something new, arranging an open house wine tasting for our new selection on the 23rd of May. We will have all of our new wines as well as our dear Llagrima d’Or and Peret Fuster wines out for a try. The tasting room will be open from 2pm to 8pm so people can stop by to sample the summer collection. We will also have some exciting offers for those who are looking to stock up for the summer vacation. Myself and M have visited all of the producers and tasted all of their wines and think they are awesome, but I cannot wait to hear what others think of them. If you are reading this and thinking it would be cool to stop by, send us an email to info@thewinecurious.com.

I must say I am really looking forward to the new sales window. The last one was a bit of a tester, and we didn’t market it that much to keep the volumes small (you don’t want to use too many customers as guinea pigs). We had a new warehouse and a new courier company handling the deliveries. So you never know if the service matches your expectations. It definitely did! We are working together with Danske Fraektman and JetPack who are both experienced in delivering wine and spirits, and I must say the service worked impeccably well. The boxes were handled with care, they left Denmark exactly the day they were supposed to and customers received good instructions for when their package would be delivered. It is not often I complement transport companies, so one should read this that I am utterly impressed. You don’t get that many chances in this business, so good partners are key!

And what is up next week? We will be heading for a cruise! It has been years since I have traveled with the ferry sailing between Finland and Sweden. They are often referred to as ‘Party boats’ as they draw a slightly drunken crowd (yes, I used to cruise around as a student as well). However, this time we are not heading there for the festivities, but rather to shop. And anyway, we are just taking the day cruise to Marienhamn (the island between Finland and Sweden). Viking Line has Bubbly Weeks all May, and that means bubbly menus in the ships restaurants and some great offers in the Tax Free shop. We have been eyeing the Charles Heidsieck Millessime 2005 and Blanc de Millenaires 1995 that we tasted about a month back at Magnussons Fine Wines (read about it here). The 2005 can be bought for less than 50€ a bottle and the 1995 will set you back 110€. Comparing to what they cost at the Swedish monopoly ( 70€/150€) these prices are GOOD! Also there are some other pearls that one might land at the boat that are not mentioned on the website, so it is definitely worth sacrificing a day to look at ‘happy’ Finns and Swedes rummaging between the buffet, tax free and disco. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a quiet cruise.

Other exciting stuff. M is in London. And besides watching a lot of football, he is on an important mission. On our trip to London over New Year, we came up with the idea for a private label champagne tasting. Many big grocery chains have their own champagne often produced by a big name in the region. Fortnum and Mason for example have Billegart-Salmon and Louis Rhoederer and Selfridges Henri Giraud. Champagne is seldom cheap but these babies are half price compared to the producers own labelled stuff. I am not sure of course if the product is exactly the same as with what they bottle for themselves. I do hope so, as it should be the quality of grapes and knowledge of the winemaker that makes a product great. So if the private label products are not close to the producers standards, then I suspect the drop in quality is intentional. The producers name must be mentioned on the bottles, so I do hope that they see this as a part of their brand as well. We will soon find out as M has been a busy bee and collected already 19 bottles to bring back home.

That is it for this wineweek! Hoping to come back to you soon with some more bubbly-action!