Sunday, November 3, 2013

How determined do you want to be a SOMM ?

The Most Stressful Exam - Master of Sommelier exam - SOMM

Out of my expectation - almost full house in cinema. I could only secure 2 seats at the corner.
Without knowing what to expect , I brought my boyfriend to watch. I thought he would fall asleep as the topic has so unrelated to him, with many tech words. I am surprised he is awake the whole movie. The entire audience is so enthusiastic into the movie such that they even give applause when result is released. Their grasp of breath is on same pace...why?

It is documentary, it is personal experience sharing, it is breath-taking.

In 3 months time, 3-6 sommeliers were to prepare for the Master of Sommelier exam. It looks like life-and-death matter. Q-cards everywhere, buddies skype from 11am-2am to go through all exam questions on daily basis, finding the mentor to give them tortures, studying day till night till another day. This is not acting, this is for real. They were totally stressed out. Panda eyes, endless nights. They haven't talked to their wives and girlfriends for long.

Imagine: able to taste and give all the comments within 1 minute of time, including all the clues that the wine give them and go through the thinking tree loud to conclude which wine that can be. That whole process are in front of 6 judges.
Only 1 exam per year. Every year, less than 10 our of the 200 applicants can pass this exam. Triumph for winners, tears for losers, they all have to attend the final celebration.

When you cry, you better cry when you pass this. As of today, there are less than 200 Master of Sommeliers. Dare to enter this devil of exam? How horrible? Watch it and you will know more.

Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival 2013

Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival has just come to an end. 

I have come across the chance to participate last Thursday. Here in a new venue - Central Promenade !
Not as spacious as West Kowloon Promenade, it's more convenient to many customers: businessmen from Central, tourist who can enjoy the ferry ride then the wine fair, tourists straight from airport to the festival. Easy! The concert chill area design is a lot nicer than previous years.

An increasing trend of 'dine' elements in this festival. Famous hotels and restaurants such as Chui Wah, Royal Hotel, Lucullus are present to showcase live cooking on their signature dishes which they think match the most with wines. Other boutique stores also take their chance to sell German Brats sausages, mussels and also parma hams. We are all impressed by the $40 pocket size ham. This wasn't a 5 pieces ham pocket, it's a 20+ pieces pocket! (I can't see the it refillable by itself?)

Icon of 'Wine' - On Friday, I received a couple of what's app asking which wine booth worth going. Which 1st growth 2nd growth Bordeaux wine from Tasting Pavillon worth buying. Generally speaking they only offer 10% discount, sometimes their own wine tasting / discount of the month is even worth buying than this. In Wine and Dine Festival, I am looking for refreshing daily drinking wine.

4 booths I would recommend:

1. Adelaide Cellar Door - They offer half of the booth for Peterson Vineyard. A bling bling rose and sparkling at $120 / $140. A lot of bling bling accessories such as wine stopper, champagne stopper, cooler pads. This is a paradise for girls.

2. Veritas - I've been there before. Good Tokaji place. Offering 5 to 6 puttoyons at $800. The 1999 6 puttoyons are more expensive than 1993. Vintage does matter.

3. AWSEC - They have the best wine offered. Mas la Pas, Rioja wine...2 tokens for $500 wine, 3 tokens for $1300 wine...worth it. When we were deciding which one to buy...they said they are not wine people, let's mark it done.

4. Granda's italian sauvignon blanc - the flowery taste swells for more than 10 minutes, seem it is planning to stay there forever. Only $160.

Side dish: The ham pocket - $40 with ham and services. How can I ask for more?

Looking forward to next year's Wine and Dine Festival~ (I hope there is no more stupid fences that I have to take a zigzag route...very dizzy.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wine with our masterpiece - 1st pot luck

Recently inspired by my friend who held a around-the-world pot luck - essentially means the meals include freshly bought truffle from UK, Parma ham from Spain, caviar from norway, tea from hang-zhou... Gorgeous pot luck.
Since attending one after another weddings of my friends, I wonder how their hubbies are surviving. Literally surviving as majority of my friends never cook in the past decades!
In order to prepare our wives-to-be, let's have a pot luck event. Simple rules: One dish each. No fried rice, noodles. Cooking skill is required. I am amazed that they really made delicious dishes! 

Of course to enjoy our own cooking, I opened 3 bottles for this:

1. Champagne Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs 2002
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2002 vintage is produced with 100% Chardonnay grapes from 3 grand cru villages within the Côte des Blancs: Le Mesnil, Oger, Avize and Cramant. It was then matured on its lees for 7-8 years, before disgorged. have a further 6-10 years aging.
Bright straw yellow with green hint. Fine bubbles and texture, with powerful mineral, the 2002 vintage is structured with elegance. Its honeyed depth expresses both power and finesse. Green apple nose come hints of white blossom, hawthorn, followed by toasted notes. The initial taste is rich – a suave, creamy but refreshing wine, with peach, stone fruit compote, apple tart – with a fine persistence and a superb finish. The 2002, is an elegant, well-balanced vintage, perfectly representative of the vintage.

The depth and complexity of the Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2002 complements poached foie gras, fish in cream sauce or casseroled veal with mushrooms. It is absolutely delicious with a goat's cheese. As for the Chinese dishes, i.e. our potluck dishes tonight. This goes the best with the stew potato with chicken wings where the concrete sauce does give a volume yet stewed meat is giving a milder taste. It also pairs well with another Taiwanese dishes of “Lou rou” (stewed pork) and egg, the bubbles bring more Taiwanese style to the dish.
2. Carver Sutro 2009 Petite Sirah (left below)
"Petite Sirah is California's most underrated and long lived varietal." - Wine Advocate. Petite Syrah has been strangers to many consumers. People often tie their image of Syrah to petit Syrah, in fact their palate are far apart. This vineyard is located at Palisades Vineyard in Calistoga of Napa Valley.
Having only 2 weeks of fermentation, Carver Sutro feels like a Zin that pairs fine with smoky and grilled food. Last time enjoying it was at a Chinese wedding banquet in Vancouver, pairs fine with suckling pig. The current and blackberry creaminess translate perfectly to the palate with a hint of licorice finish. Thus I ask friends to grab a bottle in Napa. This time majority of our dishes are mild, I could enjoy it alone... Or at most with pan-fried prawns with shallot and soy sauce, just marginally matched.

Fritz Windisch Huxelrebe TBA (right)
How can you not have a sweet wine to pair with mooncakes and cantaloupe? TBA - Short form for TrockenBeerenAuslese , the highest rank in sweetness of grapes in Germany. It literally means dried berries selection. I.e. Botrytized grapes. The sugar level is also the highest, as compatible as Tokaji / Tokaj , Ice wine etc. It's the most expensive range of wine in Germany.
Huxelrebe, a crossing of Gutedel and Courtillier Musqué, was bred by Georg Scheu in Rheinhessen in 1927. This white variety can achive record-breaking yields (and correspondingly lower-quality wine); however, if yields are controlled, the Huxelrebe can produce Auslese and dessert wines.

This fully ripened Huxelrebe has a rich bouquet and ample flavor , implies a refined Muscat tone. It is grown primarily in Rheinhessen and the Pfalz and Nahe.This TBA is concentrated with honeycomb and slight lemon zest. The sugar level is high yet not as jammy therefore to decide between traditional mooncake with lotus paste seed and yolk or snowy moon cake with light green bean paste, the latter has a better marriage. 

To celebrate Mid Autumn, my parents show-case their newly bought Austrian shot glasses engraved with Austrian landmarks to drink the TBA. shot glass still made some of my friends drunk. Marking an amazing night with a powerful node of dessert wine.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bonheur - the long missing wine buddies are back!

Remhoogte Estate Wine 2004
Africa Stellenbosch
Produced by Michel Rolland and Auguste Natter
Blend: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage

Looking at winery like this (the view above),  african wineries are worth paying a visit, espeically when
famous Bordeaux oenologist - the influential Rolland effect is the producer!

Dry body, with strong hint of "corn" and cranberries. Fruity and easy drinking style. Stronger black current in palate. The acidic and tannin tangle on my tongue for a while and gone. Mimic bordeaux style however the aftertaste needs to catch up.
Not sure if 2004 is a matured vintage to drink for Stellenbosch.

Food Pairing: Goes so well with 36 months parma ham and melted Parmesan cheese. My choice of typical Foie Gras will be better for even stronger cab dominant wine. And the pan-fried scallop is quite a highlight as the inside is still very fresh and meaty. Even pan-fried seafood pairs quite well with this wine.

The only 'winery' in Hong Kong - The 8th Estate Winery. Located in Aberdeen, blending grapes from all over the world trying to see if this works out in a non-grape growing city. This was bought during last visit organized by company event.
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington USA

Spicy nose. Classic cab flavour, peppery. Fuller body 1 hour later. Stronger dark chocolate with certain bitterness as back bone. This pairs better with Foie Gras. Since we did not do the food pairing this time, majority of us picks the tomato fish soup, which is an innovative dish. The blended fish brings context and chewiness to the tomato soup that you can't imagine they are perfect match. 
Salad's vinegar actually spoils the acidity of the wine. Suggest not to have salad with vinegar as an option.

Mount Mary Quintet 2006
Yarra Valley Australia
Producer: Dr. John Middleton
Grape: Blend - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, others...

Almost majority of the Australian wine producer are either retired lawyer or doctor, probably because during their work / life they have a lot more chance to get in touch with wine than anybody else.

This was bought 4 years ago at slightly below $400. As the highest grade "excellence" of Langton's ranking, my last impression was a very powerful shiraz that I would definitely revisit with no doubt.

This time, it feels like stranger to me. It tasted different from before, a much weaker wine. Due to the Cabernet Franc element, the cassis and cloves aroma is quite welcoming, with a garnet color. Once drink it through, the structure is fair, yet the body is medium and fruitiness makes it looks like a medium level wine instead of excellent one for investment. It suppose to last till 2024+ from Robert Parker. I have strong doubt to this, fingercross that is only a storage issue. Mild aftertaste and goes best with the black juicy pork tonight. The juicy thick and gigantic pork.

Pavie Macquin 2007
St. Emilion Bordeaux
Grape: Bordeaux blend - Merlot, little Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon
Producer: Nicolas Thienpont and Stéphane Derenoncourt.

Not only Pavie Macquin, Nicholas is also the producer of Larcis Ducasse, Les Chares Godard, Puygueraud and La Prade - all are representative and famous on its own.

From latest Decanter note, it says this wine is light and early drinking. Well, hang in there... as we had it breathed for 2 hours that it starts evolving. I love evolving wine, it's like drinking several wines. 1 price, 3 tastes, great!

Hint of malt and wheat. Clear red berries, plummy and licorice with silky end. Medium body. Flavor gets richer and intense only in mid way of palate. It comes to the peak when we came to the cheese platter part, that's... 4 hours. Long lengthy aftertaste 
Lovely marriage with pork as the mild juicy pork melt with macquin. This Grand Cru Classe B has earned its best rank among 5 wines of the night, also it's the most expensive wine of the night. ($720)

Lascomes 2008
Chateau Lascomes, Margaux, Bordeaux (Grand Cru Classe 2nd Growth, First wine of the chateau)
Grape: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with slightly others.
Owner: Marcel Kahn

This is the 1st wine I stole from Dad's wine cellar that brought me to the world of grand cru classe. (without knowing the price by then) I was hardly scolded and told not to touch any wine. That refrains me from wine for quite a while until... I buy the permit to drink (with a wine cert -- a real ticket).
Silky texture, full body, not much leather, and again this is peppery and black fruit with chocolate flavour at the end.

After years of drinking a wide range of wine, I would say this is a regular choice. It won't fail you, especially if you go for wine with steak and mash potato. Sometimes I would prefer you go for Chevalier de Lascome (2nd wine of Chateau Lascombe) at around $250 which makes a reasonable price and daily joy too.
Mango Napoleon itself is the signature dish of Bonheur. It stands well by itself, or with coffee. Hard to enjoy in good manner, with friends... we just love it!

Dornfelder 2009
Grape: Dornfelder Germany Red grapes for red wine
Easy drinking and surprisigly good match with anything mad eof vanilla, in the case with apple tart and soft center chocolate cake. The unique boysenberry sweetness makes the apple tart and chocolate cake like topped with berries , fill out the missing part of it.

We all use the remaining wine from previous mentioned to match the cheese and grapes~ That brings the lone dominant flavour and character of the wines. No doubt why cheese platter always served parallel with 'desserts' -- to revitalize , revisit and wrap up our impression to all our wines.

Welcome back my drinking buddies. Looking forward to more themes in our wine gatherings. Enjoy~

Restaurant: Bonheur
Address: 22-26 Bonham Strand, 6F, The Pemberton, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2544 6333


Monday, October 21, 2013

Upcoming Wine & Beer Festival 2013

Recently comes the wine month, apart from celebrating them by attending festivals, many people also ask me which wines / beers are good. Here are the upcoming wine events, so see you there:

Oktoberfest at Beer Garden Jockey Club Racecourse - Now till 26 Oct

Wine and Dine Festival - 30th Oct - 1 Nov

Marco Polo Beer Festival - 25th Oct - 16 Nov

Watson's Wine Week - 7th Nov

Wine Expo at HKCEC - 7th - 9th Nov

Altaya Wine Festival - 22nd Nov

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Petaluma - Good with range managment

One thing I always think Yellow Tail and Wolf Blass have done wrong is on adopting the same label name entering different range of market.

E.g. you will see wolf blass selling $26 in convenience store, $100 in supermarket and $399 for the premium version. Indeed, using different coloring: red label, blue label, black label, platinum label...
who cares if they don't look into details? They count by whatever they see the most -- the lower end ones.

In Hong Kong, what the conglomerates do is to wear different brands targeting different industries, different segments so that at the end of the day, residents don't even realize they are surrounded by the same company: supermarket, convenience store, electric stores, real estates, gas station, airlines...all are owned under one.

Petaluma in fact did our way: the 2 brands way.

Petaluma carried 37 years of history, and in the name of Petaluma town. 
Croser and Petaluma are the 2 lines - one concentrating on sparkling wines, another targeting the mid range supermarkets and hotels. 

Comparing to the Adelaide hills, Petaluma is slightly commercial, in a sense that it provides own restaurant called Bridgewater Mill, right next to watermill view. 

When serving, the long bench breaks the ice among visitors and the hosts, with piano upstairs serving as a background soundtrack. Though this couldn't be concluded as warm welcoming, it is decent enough to hold huge wine tasting event in here.

After the hectic driving day we barely catch the last tasting batch. Tasting note:

2008 sparkling: strong aromatic nose, acidic n dry, bitter end, stone n citrus  fruit, high alcohol, slight yeast/ biscuit 

2008 rose 100% Pinot noir
Nose is more acidic, floral
Taste: strawberry hint, balancing end, fruity light end, 

2011 Riesling super light white
Peach pear aroma pungent fresh
Simple, petrol, flat, 

2009 viognier like green
Nose Leather smell, gasoline cigar hint
Taste: woody, balance, savory, crisp

2009 Chardonnay
Nose: little gamey
Taste: lengthy aftertaste, gamy, oaky, hint of peachy as a finishing

2008 cab merlot
Nose: blend half
Taste: well balanced, chalky, tannin of cab, hint of oak, merlot's smoothness, cherry n berries on the end

2010 Shiraz
Nose perfume pear lime
Shiraz: peppery, mild, spicy, balance not strong character end 

I am quite interested with Petaluma project. Anything they can share more with would be good.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

First Growth Dinner - mouton 1981 2003

Seldom put aside the dishes when describing my wine dinner. Just that they weren't a good marriage in the beginning. Imagine a simple concept of having  pork companying with Cabernet Sauvignon?

Mouton 1981
Colour not reaching brick red. If not knowing the vintage, the closest guess would be 1999. Nose is very thick, slight hint of oak. Peak after opening for 2 hours, think already passed the peak. Drink immediately within the year, with mild steak or stewed beef.

Mouton 2003
Looking orange-red. However the aging of wine has not reached its peak. You can tell from the aftertaste that the ending is abrupt and not smooth. The indication of good potential is that the abrupt ending node is still swelling in mouth in a frozen state. Less potential to age ones are with deteriorating taste in palate and flat ends. Goes well with ribs and steak. However I was "enjoying" that with pig organs...mmm...

Lalande 1999
Hope I can taste it. I give away this chance to Work...well that's the source to support my luxurious wine life~

Now that I realize what matters to me is not solely the wine. It's everything that makes a dinner perfect. It's fate that I can't live a simple life with only with wine at Dai pai dong.


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