Palate Practice

tasting with intention

Tag: friends

Catching Up Over Beers

A couple days ago I met up with my friend Rory at the new location of one of the best bars for craft beer in the city. It was great to catch up and, as always, great to sample some new brews.

For the first round Rory had a sour beer that I would never have considered (sour beers and I don’t get along) so I opted for a flight of four beers. I found it slightly odd that my flight was arranged in the order I named the beers – usually a flight is structured so that you go from lightest to heaviest in flavour so that your palate has the best chance of enjoying each beer. Rory and I also agreed that lighter coloured beers (lagers, pilsners, IPAs, etc.) should be drunk before darker coloured beers (stouts and imperials, etc.). So even though my flight was arranged out of order in it’s wooden block, the list below is the order in which I drank them.

Here’s what I had, along with my thoughts on each.

 

Bar Hop flight

Beer!

 

Great Lakes Brewery – Thrust IPA

American IPA, 6.5%

GLB Thrust

 

I tried this one mainly because a new batch has recently been released from GLB and I’ve noticed that people tend to go a bit crazy for it every time. It’s a solid beer with great body and a nice flavour. One tip though – you will probably want to stay away from this one if you’re not a hops person. It’s not the most burn-your-face-off I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly not a mellow beer by any means.

 

Side Launch – Mountain Lager

Munich Helles, 4.7%

Side Launch Mountain Lager

 

I didn’t like this one much. I found it watery and bland, with just a hint of breadiness that didn’t show up until the finish. Pretty boring, sadly. If you’re determined to drink Side Launch I’d stick with their main three beers – a wheat, a pale ale and a dark ale.

 

Great Lakes Brewery & Bar Hop – Someone Else’s Problem

American IPA, 7.2%

Bar Hop Full Flight

Someone Else’s Problem is the lighter on in the backgorund.

 

Another slightly disappointing choice. Usually I love anything GLB brews but this one left me unenthused. It isn’t a bad beer, by any stretch, I was just hoping for a bit more of a punch in the flavour department. I drank this one with the food I’d ordered (cassoulet, yummmmmm) and it went down really easily, so it has that going for it at least. Another plus – you really can’t tell how high the alcohol content is by tasting it.

 

Bar Hop Cassoulet

Mmmmmm beans and meat and duck fat…

 

Sawdust City & Bar Hop – The Blood of Cthulhu

Imperial Stout, 9.5%

Sawdust Bar Hop imperial stout

 

Ok, first of all, what the hell kind of name is that?? Neither Rory nor I could pronounce this beer’s name until our waitress kindly told us. In case you were wondering, it’s coo-thoo. The Blood of COO-THOO. So there you go.

Unfortunately figuring out how to pronounce the name is the only good thing I can say about this beer. For an imperial it was incredibly thin. And worse, the sour cherry and raspberry it was brewed with made the finish tasted like Robitussin – yuck. So unfortunate, as I was really hoping for a solid imperial for dessert.

 

Despite the high alcohol content of the last two beers Rory and I were still thirsty after our pints. We both ordered one more before calling it a night.

 

County Durham Brewing – Red Dragon

Red Ale, 5%

County Durham Red Dragon

 

This was a solid beer, though not one that would really get me going, sadly. It had some hoppiness as well as a creaminess, which didn’t do it for me. I’m not generally a fan of creaminess in beers, unless we’re talking about a simple and solid cream ale, like the one from Muskoka. This beer was a welcome reprieve from the imperial debacle, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.

 

You can follow me on Untappd to see my ratings and comments on these and other beers.

Have you tried any new beers lately? What did you think?

A Couple of Wino Friends

So, Bordeaux is pretty gorgeous! (image from SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr on Flickr – click through for more info)

Bordeaux, France, aka Gorgeoustown. (image from SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr on Flickr – click through for more info)

I recently had dinner and caught up with my friend Cat. I first met Cat during my first year of university where we were both fresh-faced and over-eager campus student leaders.

The last time we saw each other was last November when I was visiting New York City. We met up and wandered around the Union Square market, toured Eataly (where Cat bought a big and slightly scary-looking octopus) and where Cat showed me her favourite wine shop – Appellation Wine & Spirits. They were having a tasting, she said, and added that the staff there were so friendly and their stock so interesting that this shop had become a regular ritual for her. Turns out she was correct on all counts. I was sad to leave that wonderful place but ultimately both me and my bank account were happy it isn’t my local wine shop.

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Us, pretty much. And by that I mean we’re both Meryl.

In case you couldn’t tell, along with being a good friend, Cat is a fellow wino. We had a great time last November talking about and enjoying wine and it was then that she first told me about her dream to one day become a winemaker.

Fast forward to last week, when we got together. We spent the evening catching each other up on our lives and our wine journeys. I told her about this blog and some of the plans I’m mulling over and she told me about the soul searching she did while walking the Camino trail. Always a doer, walking the trail led her to realize that learning to be a winemaker was a much more pressing and insistent goal than she originally thought. So, she left her corporate job in NYC to begin this new adventure, and will shortly be moving to none other than Bordeaux to begin a combined MSc/MBA in the wine industry. And, wouldn’t you know it, Cat has started a wine blog to share this new chapter.Talk about exciting!

Needless to say I’m impressed and very excited for her. Cat has always inspired and motivated me and this new adventure is no different.

It’s nice to have a wine buddy, someone who is learning like I am and who I can share my hair-brained and novice questions and comments with (What the heck is the deal with appellations?? Does this taste like school chalk to you? Yes, this tastes like a Merlot, but that’s all I’ve got!).

This will be Cat and I in our old age.

This will be Cat and I in our old age. Ok fine, it’s us now.

Catching up with Cat has also left me thinking more about my own wine-related ambitions, and the personal journey I’d like to take. I find myself renewed when it comes to writing and learning about wine and pushing myself to always taste with intention. For the past few months I’ve be mulling over the decision to enroll in more structured courses. Would they be too easy? Too difficult? To what end would I take them, or would it be purely self-indulgence? But then again, wine is a wonderful thing, and who couldn’t use a little self-indulgence every so often?

Well, I’ve decided that next January I’m going to take a WSET course and see where that takes me. Sometimes you have to jump and do something without knowing what use it’ll be later.

I have, of course, already begun looking up flights to France, because who wouldn’t want to visit their wino friend in wino Mecca?
Happy trails and safe sipping, Cat!

The Elevated Experience of Wine and Friendship

My friend Cori came over the other night. Our plan was to have some dinner and watch some tv and, wonderful friend that she is, she supplied a bottle of red wine that she’d brought back from a trip to Italy last fall.

She and her husband had been traipsing the Italian countryside and found a resort in Tuscany to stay at for a couple nights. Since it was November the resort was mostly deserted (turns out people don’t usually stay in Tuscany in the rainy autumn), which worked out for the best because Cori and husband were treated to a lovely time by the Italian couple who run the place. Neither owner spoke English so things like ordering dinner and general conversation proved challenging. But! One thing they did manage to work out is the buying and consumption of good, cheap red wine and made on the premises. At four euros a bottle, who could resist?

And so Cori brought a bottle home. And shared it with me. And it was awesome.

The front of the bottle

The front label. So fancy, so Italian!

Back label, complete with impeccable English description. Intriguing, considering the couple who made the wine didn't speak a lick of English!

Back label, complete with impeccable English description. Intriguing considering the couple who made the wine didn’t speak a lick of English.

The wine was a blend of Sangiovese, Colorino, and Malvasia and produced in the Chianti region. To my knowledge I’ve only ever had Sangiovese, so this wine was an exciting introduction to some new varietals.

Cori had some trepidation about drinking this wine again, which I completely understood – the last time she had this wine was so special and different from her normal life. I’m a big believer in how the circumstances of enjoying a bottle affect your impression of it. Whether the wine is new to you or not, what you ate (or didn’t) as you drank it, whether you had a good or bad day, who you drank the wine with – all these things can change what you think of a wine.

Yep, looks like red wine...

Yep, looks like red wine…

Luckily for us, this bottle delivered. It was an interesting new experience with Chiantis – I found it fairly light in terms of body, and had a great soft flavour.. It was so soft and mellow, with some vanilla and something giving it some fruitiness, though I couldn’t tell which fruit (more homework is obviously needed where chantis are concerned!). It’s interesting to note that the flavours and texture I got from the wine aren’t typical Chianti flavours. I wonder if that’s because there was some Malvasia in there mixing around with the more common Chianti varietals of Sangiovese and Colorino.

Despite the slight deviation in flavour, I really loved this little bottle and am now indebted to Cori for sharing such a great experience with me. Knowing the story behind the wine made it special, as did knowing Cori wanted to share it with me because she knew I’d appreciate it.

Wine + friends = <3

Wine + friends = <3

Thanks Cori! Next time I’ll have to share a wine that has special meaning for me.

With A Little Help From My Friends

Last week was my birthday, and I had some friends over last weekend to celebrate. And my friends, lovely people that they are, know me so well that they treated me to some great gifts – of wine!

 

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Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2011

I love the big personality of a Malbec, and think South America does them really well. Since Malbecs tend to have strong flavours and a lot of body I will probably have this wine with something with a similarly strong flavour, like a steak or a hearty stew. Or maybe I’ll just savour it on its own.

 

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Nicolas Laloux Les Chais 770

(I couldn’t actually find a link to this wine – curious!)

This one looks like a blend, but I am still interested to try it. To be honest, I am always interested in trying wine, since every bottle, every sip brings me closer to knowing what I like and being able to pinpoint more accurately what I’m tasting. The friend who gave me this wine gave me a 1 litre bottle, so I might need some help finishing this one!

 

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Chateau Marjosse 2010

‘Wait a minute,’ you might say, ‘this one doesn’t say which varietal it is!’

Well, you’d be right. Many French wines don’t state the grapes used to make their wines, and it’s not because they are trying to hide something from you – they actually expect you to know! This wine is from the Bordeaux region, which means it is most likely a blend of some combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and, in rare cases, Carménère. I am particularly excited to taste this wine because I’ve been on a bit of a streak educating myself on French wines, and also because I’ve also heard that 2010 was a good year for Bordeaux wines. (A good year basically means that the powers that be in the wine world have deemed wines made from grapes picked in that year to be particularly well-made. Yum!)

 

I was also given some beer and cider. I know, they’re not wine, but beer can be just as complex and interesting – not to mention delicious!

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[left to right: St. Bernardus Abt 12 quadrupel (Belgium), Cremant Cidrerie St-Nicolas (Quebec), La Trappe quadrupel (Netherlands)]

I have to admit, I love beer, and have a particular weakness for quadrupels, so I’m excited to try this beer. I’ve seen it in the shop and always wondered what it tasted like, and am grateful to my friends for treating me to this delicious-looking Belgian quad!

One of my friends brought one bottle of this cider for me, and one for us to enjoy at the party. I was a little wary because I am not usually a fan of sweet things, but this cider was light and crisp in addition to its sweetness – I found it completely delicious!

I’m excited to try this beer too! Quads tend to be strong in flavour and usually have a higher alcohol content (about 9%, as opposed to about 6% of most other beers), which can turn some people off, but I find them complex and completely satisfying.

 

As you can see, my friends really spoiled this birthday girl. If you’re looking to try new wines asking for them as gifts for an occasion like a birthday is a great opportunity!

 

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