Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A Reasonable Riesling

The mid tier 2009 vintage entry from Jackson Triggs represents the good value in wine generally – not just wine from the Niagara region in particular.

At $18 (purchased directly from the winery in 2011) the Silver Series doesn't command the price tag or the snob appeal of something as difficult to pronounce as the Deidesheimer Hohenmorgen Riesling trocken GC. Silken, yet it has complexity and balance that makes it worthy as a complement to aged cheddar, salted chips or grilled calamari. Alternatively, it is an inviting sipping option and perfect as an ice breaker for a party or a substitute for those not inclined for the sweetness of ice wine after a meal.

Taking off the screw cap and serving it well chilled (suggest 5-8°C or 41-46°F) provides ample opportunity to test the nose: a few swirls in the glass evokes floral notes worthy of memorable perfume complemented by traces of lemon and a touch of nectarine. In fact, this would be an ideal candidate for a blind tasting for the fragrance diffuses immediately and enticingly.

This isn’t a bone dry entry: acidity, sweetness and alcohol are balanced so that initial hint of light fruit flavour dances with the chalk and stone mineral notes on the finish.

Was the nebulous terroir of the Four Mile Creek sub appellation showing through or the imagination of your SukasaStyle reviewers? It doesn’t matter. This was worth the price and shows that Canadian Riesling need not be about a saccharin aftertaste; it can be complex and satisfying without breaking your budget.

While the Rieslings of Mosel, Rheingau and Alsace are the rage amongst the oenophiles, may we suggest that this is worth a look and a sip.

4.2 Sukasa Stars 
High on Quality/Price Ratio 

Blog post by Arijit Banik for SukasaStyle

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Lost Art of Entertaining

Afternoon tea with Charles The Butler

I was fortunate to meet Charles MacPherson one afternoon at the famed Butler School in Toronto. Despite his busy schedule, the jolly, kind-hearted expert on etiquette (fondly referred by Marilyn Denis as Charles The Butler), took a moment for SukasaStyle. I thought you’d enjoy reading most of the interview in Charles MacPherson’s own delightful words.

 How has the concept of etiquette changed over the years?
I think the world is confused right now. I think the world is trying … etiquette evolves/changes as society changes.  Although there is always the basis of being gracious and kind and respectful to others no matter what. Society is trying to figure out the new technologies of the world and how that fits into our lives.

How does it work with technology?
There’s no excuse to have technology at the dinner table. Unless you are a surgeon about to be called into surgery to save someone’s life, there is no reason why anyone can justify to me why you are so important you need to have your phone at the table. Even the president of the United States who is the most important man in the world doesn’t keep his phone on the table. Someone will come get him if there’s a crisis going on.

Just because you have your cell phone on, doesn’t mean you have to answer it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Charles The Butler loves...

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
My nickname came from a TV show, Charles in Charge. I thought it was a term with affection, with love and with respect

Tell me how you became Charles the Butler?
Marilyn Denis came up with it. She started calling me Charles the Butler first on her radio show

Who is your role model, and why?
With the fear of sounding corny, my role model would be The Queen of England. She’s dedicated to her job, she’s gracious, tireless and always working for her country. It has nothing to being a monarchist. Whether you agree or disagree with being a monarch, that’s a separate conversation. But just being able to admire her devotion and how she works and has given her life to the country, I think is very admirable.

Was working hard part of upbringing you had?  
It’s instilled into you by your parents/grandparents when you are young. It’s not something you are born with…it has to be instilled in us.

What's your superpower / spirit animal?
I am very aware of what I believe is karma. A spirit of doing good for others and doing good for yourself. I have a connection for belief of karma.
….It’s  something I’ve always had.

The conversation takes a detour as we discuss India....
I went to India 5 years ago to work at the Taj Hotels, it changed my life. I know people who go to India and it’s such an altering experience because as my friend mentioned is because of the vivid colour of the nation. But I was humbled and reborn – being in a society of people that were so kind and gracious, and that was just the way the society is. Yes you can find negatives and positives in most societies, but I just felt so genuinely welcomed and received there that I left a different person…I think I left a happier person, and more at peace.

For what appears to sometimes visually as a poor nation, it’s not a poor nation. It’s a rich nation of intelligent people who are thirsty to learn and who want to give.

It’s not for everybody, you have to be able to deal with the differences in culture and financial resources and understand how some people have lots of money and some people don’t have any money, but somehow it all works.

What’s your favourite holiday spot?
Hard to say my fave spot because there are so many. But there are places where I am most comfortable. I find that when I’m in New York and London, England, I feel most at peace. Why, I do not know. Makes no sense to me. I’ve lived in New York for nine years and it was the best nine years of my life. And when I’m in London, although I’ve never lived in London, I always feel happy and lucky in London.

Do you have a fave food style?
My fave food style is peasant food, because I find peasant food is the most comfortable to eat and the most flavourful, and the most relaxing. Food that’s too fluffy and over man-handled and produced, I don’t find it very exciting…I always find that I’m hungry afterwards and I hate that feeling. So, I like foods to be cleaner to be simpler, I don’t like a lot of heavy things in them, and I like just to be able to enjoy whatever it is. So one of my fave authors who does that kind of cuisine is Donna Hay from Australia. It’s very clean. The other person who I love is Delia Smith from the U.K.
I love Donna Hay because she focuses on the 5-6 main ingredients and Delia Smith does the classic British country cuisine. I love cooking. But I only cook when I’m in the country.

I’m busy. Which is why when I go to New York, I can go to my hotel and do nothing. And stay inside my hotel room, watch television, make a pot of tea with some toast, and just sit quietly and be happy. I don’t need to be on a tour bus or run around the city, although my fave movie of all time is If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 items would you take with you?

1. A bottle of my Hermes cologne.

2. Christofle silverwear - a box, or just a few pieces to eat properly. 

3. A good Julia Child cookbook.

Do you do any fictional reading?
No. I love to read biographies, and I’m fascinated by reading letters. Queen Elizabeth – the Queen Mother – her private letters that was published recenty.

The Butler School – Was it always something that you wanted to start up? How did you make the dream a reality?
There was a need. There was no school in North America. Just foolishly jumped into it.

                         What are the top core principles of entertaining? 
Make sure everyone has... 
    1. A drink in their hand
  2. Someone to talk to

As long as they have those two things they are calm and relaxed – they’re having a good time. Flowers, food and décor are all nice, but at the end of the day that’s not the focal point. People aren’t coming to your house to eat, they are coming to socialize.

Do you have any tips for entertaining in a small place?
You have to be more organized. You don’t have the luxury of space to be able to spread yourself out. And, you have to be more precise. But it can be done.

What is your fave music to play in the background while entertaining?
Nothing louder than Jazz or tap. It should be soft at the best of times.

What’s a great hostess gift?
Something that you send ahead of time saying “looking forward to a wonderful evening”. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s flowers or wine, or food or champagne….Anything is a great hostess gift when you give it ahead of time. I can’t stand the element of surprise when you’ve got your evening planned and someone walks in with a bunch of flowers.

Charles MacPherson's book The Butler Speaks is a must-have guide to fabulous entertaining. Read a review now

Charles MacPherson is the president and founder of Charles MacPherson Associates Inc. and brings over 24 years experience in Household Management as the Major Domo for one of Canada's most prominent families as well as his role as Founder and President of Charles MacPherson Associates since 1996. In 2009 Charles opened North America's only registered school for Butlers & Household Managers in Toronto, Canada.

Charles has consulted with both Residential Clients and Hospitality clients in Canada, the USA, UK, Europe, South Africa and China in the areas of staffing, training, planning and managing and is recognized as a world authority in the Household Management and Butler fields respectively. In the past six months alone, Charles has completed assignments at some of the leading hotel properties in China, India and France. Charles has personally written the department standards and was the lead team trainer for Queen Mary 2 and Fouquette's Barrière Hôtel along with being the lead trainer for the butler department of the Four Seasons Hotel in Shanghai, China. Charles heads the Hospitality Advisory & Consulting practice at CMA.

In addition to his other full time duties at Charles MacPherson Associates Inc., Charles released his first book THE BUTLER SPEAKS published by Random House and is currently on the national best seller list for Non-fiction in Canada.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Oysters and wine, always divine

This past weekend saw the 25th anniversary of the Ontario Oyster Festival at Rodney’s Oyster House, Toronto’s institution for the consumption of bivalve mollusks. It was all for a good cause which brings us to this week’s wine Wednesday picks: matching oysters with wine, always divine, never tiring, and simply inspiring in the company of friends.

After you have purchased your delicacies, controlled your temperature and shucked safely with no injuries you will need the right pairing. Here are SukasaStyle’s suggestions based on first hand experience but remember to trust your own palate as what worked for us may not for you.

Kumamoto – the creamy texture and nutty aftertaste of the California/Washington Kumamoto paired well with BISOL CREDE BRUT PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE SUPERIORE (VINTAGES 297242) at $14.95. The creamy style and crisp acidity makes this an easy choice. Alternatively for a splurge, Champagne or a higher end Cava never fails here.


Bisol Crede Brut

Beausoleil – the New Brunswick mollusk, low maintenance with little to no sand, a lot of meat and a refined flavour paired favourably with the mineral dryness of JAFFELIN BOURGOGNE ALIGOTE (LCBO 53868) costing $15.95.


Bourgogne Aligote

Malpeque – the soft briny meat from Prince Edward Island contrasts well with the tart-sweet fizz of MICHELE CHIARLO NIVOLE MOSCATO D'ASTI 2010 (VINTAGES 942888) clocking in at $16.95 a bottle. Other reviewers typically suggest either some type of sparkling wine or a sauvignon blanc but this pairing worked for us. The Moscato D’Asti also is a crowd pleaser and if the recommendation is not available try one from another estate to get your guests ready and in the mood for the oyster delights but if something dry is to your liking then give the Alvarinho Blend VARANDA DO CONDE ALVARINHO/TRAJADURA VINHO VERDE 2011 (VINTAGES 966663) which is $13.95 a try.


Moscato d'Asti
Michele Chiarlo Nivole

Fanny Bay – the pacific oyster staple from British Columbia has a number of clear characteristics: 'vegetal grassiness' on the finish, meatiness upfront and a mild brine profile in between. We opted for a wine pairing from that region --a west coast chardonnay-- CEDAR CREEK ESTATE 2008 CHARDONNAY VQA (VINTAGES 237974) with a hefy pricetag at $24.95 a bottle. If the LCBO markup is unpalatable then go for an old staple, BOUCHARD PERE & FILS PETIT CHABLIS (LCBO 51466) with a lesser markup at $19.95.

Fanny Bay
Cedar Creek Chardonnay

Monday, 15 July 2013

Amore for Amarone

What is better than drinking a fine Amarone crafted from the Classico northern hills of Verona? What’s even better is drinking a bottle of the aforementioned wine that was given as gift by a dear friend and wine aficionado! While we at SukasaStyle have often said that life is too short to drink plonk, it is unarguably not long enough to explore the world’s great wines: so many and so little time and limited funds, to boot.
But today’s note has a happy ending for the 2004 Corte Brà Amarone della Valpollicella Classico DOC from Sartori vineyards, comprising 50% Corvina Veronese,  30% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella and 5% Oseleta -- grapes that are dried, parsed and re-selected in typical Amarone fashion -- result in a memorable experience.
An important point to consider here: this isn’t your father’s chianti. High even for Amarone, this imbibe weighs in at 15% alcohol and while this punch may initially mask the complexity of the product, it shouldn’t. Give it some time to evolve for with much haste, comes much waste. We found a ruby rich colour worthy of a maharaja’s gems, an almost prune like nose accentuated with a touch of greenery, and an initial taste with a nod to a rich mixture of strawberries, blackberries, rosemary and thyme underscored by crisp acidity and a mouth filling finish.
Remember, impressions of wine are as much about the moment as they are about the wine itself: it isn’t about the abstract sterility of simply drinking and recording in a tasting lab. For example, Antonio Galloni, in 2011, weighed in on the 2004 vintage and stated that intrusiveness of the oak on the finish needed to be toned down in future vintages. If that was the case in 2011, it isn’t the case in 2013 – at least to our palate and that of the friends who gifted the bottle -- as your humble SukasaStyle contributor has never been a fan of new World over oaked renderings.
Moreover, other reviewers have cautioned about there being “too much ripeness and not enough acidity”. We disagree. The acidity on display here is, of course, beaten by that of a Chianti or reds from cooler regions but there is balance despite the high alcohol content. The alcohol on the nose can be misleading at the start of a meal but a wine of this class is not meant to be chugged but savoured over the span of a few hours, preferably in the company of those you love. Pair with game, stew, lamb, beef or Parmigiano Reggiano, and decent while serving at 18°C - 20°C (approx. 64°F - 68°F). If you are lucky enough to own more than one then cellar for another decade.
This wine was part of the March 3, 2012 release at LCBO Vintages, priced at $49.95, so here’s hoping that Woodman Wine and Spirits or another agency brings back future vintages to Ontario.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Women and Back Problems - Health Video

View this 40-minute YouTube Clip to learn more about back pain that affects women and how to reduce and prevent this sometimes debilitating condition.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Run to the LCBO for this Duoro Porto

A recent article in the National Post: Vintage snobbery: Are wine critics fooling us into buying pricier bottles? evoked a touchy subject that your friends at SukasaStyle have addressed in a previous post –wine reviews: rigorous fact or creative fiction?

This post won’t go where wine critics and their critics have gone before. Instead, it will urge you to do something Canadians are not doing: spend less on a bottle of wine. Wait, isn’t this blog about la dolce vita and enjoying life? Of course it is, and as we, and many others have stated before, life is too short to drink plonk. But paying more doesn’t necessarily mean more quality.

During these austere times, everyone is watching their pennies as the cost of living outpaces pay packets so this fine Wine Wednesday’s recommendation urges you to save your dollars but enjoy the quality of Quinta do Portal Late Bottled Vintage Port 2003 (Vintages 31001 at LCBO) retailing for $14.95 in Ontario.

2003: It was a good year
Combining varietals Touriga Nacional (35%), Tinta Roriz (35%), Touriga Franca (30%), the viticulturalist Miguel Sousa stated:
We had a winter with low rainfall and an average temperature higher than normal. With April came a heat wave and also quite a lot of rain that allowed a considerable vegetative expansion. In May the temperatures were lower than expected what allied to high rainfall led to some "desavinho" and "bagoinha". August was crucial and marked the average quality of the grapes due to an extraordinary thermic amplitude. The maturations were slow but effective. During the harvest the temperatures were mild and the rainfall weak. In quantity terms we had less than 40% of the normal crop.
In summary, these were perfect conditions – worthy of the label Vintage.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV): The Sweet Spot
Don’t burn a hole in your wallet by buying a Vintage port and don’t disappoint your taste buds with a tawny. LBVs are the sweet spot and this iteration scores high on the QPR. Andrew Sainsbury put it well by stating:
It is for this reason that LBVs are often referred to as "the poor man's vintage port", or, as The World Atlas of Wine more delicately dubs them, "the modern man's vintage port." Both of these descriptions are apt, because LBVs are less expensive (for the poor man) and require less time (for the impatient modern man) than vintage ports. Whether modern man, poor man, or like me, a little of both, LBVs should be your go to category of ports as the best of them can deliver a powerful and complex port drinking experience without the investment of time and money required to enjoy vintage ports.
To learn more about LBV, click here for a detailed write up.

Tasting Notes:
A silky mouth feel is contrasted nicely by a slight tannic structure, with a plush mixture of cherries, berries and melons. The deep ruby colour and good legs is rounded out with a long finish. Drink now or cellar for 3 more years if you can wait. The acidity will pair well with Leicestershire Stilton or rich vanilla ice cream but there is no need: drink by itself and serve to your dinner guests and reflect upon the good life as you watch the crackling fireplace.

Just remember that the Qunita do Portal LBVs are unfiltered so if you are patient and a purist, please decant. If you are impatient with no time for puritans, then pour through a tea strainer. Either way, you will be rewarded with a great LBV port without the sticker shock of vintage port and understand why Roy Hersh and Jancis Robinson consider it a hidden gem. SukasaStyle agrees.

4.5 Sukasa Stars

Blog post by Arijit Banik for SukasaStyle.