Time for Spanish Wines to shine

Henry Yuen

Have you ever wondered why the shelf space for Spanish wines section at most government liquor stores is usually smaller than wines from other origins – Australia, United States, Italy, even Chile and Argentina?  Limited space results in limited choices, quite possibly, focus of wine selection will be more on price points rather than a good wine that showcases the qualities and distinctiveness of Spanish wines.  A way to change that is to increase consumer demand for these wines and the first step is for them to acknowledge, taste and understand wines from Spain.

Don’t’ know much about Spanish wines? There is no better chance than to attend this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival where the featured country is Spain. From March 28 to April 03, there will be an array of events and tastings with a Spanish theme.

Those familiar with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz would likely want to know more about these grapes from Spain, as much as learning about Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, the more staple indigenous grape varietals mostly confined to the wine regions of Spain. So far they have not been widely grown in other places around the world. While Spain seeds a few hundred grape varietals, these indigenous varietals make up almost 80% of the production.

The diverse and vast wine regions of Spain encourage vineyard establishments everywhere throughout the country.  From areas close to the Atlantic to the Great Central Plain and to the Mediterranean in the South, Spain’s wine regions encompass almost 500,000 square kilometres. As a result, terrain and climate play an important role in the versatility of fruit characters, for example, Tempranillo grow in warmer climate is intense and concentrated whereas the same grape varietal coming from moderate climate are more fruit forward, spicy, and with a hint of tobacco.           

While Spanish wines may not have reached the same level of classification as French wines, there are a few basic terms that describe the different levels of wine making. With the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival just around the corner, understanding the following wine terms will definitely help to embrace the Spanish wine tasting process.

CRIANZA is the term used to describe Spanish red wines that has been aged for two years, six months of which must be aged in oak. For white wines, they must be aged for twelve months with six months of aging in oak.

RESERVA refers to red wines that have been aged for 36 months with at least twelve months in oak; and   whites must be aged for 24 months with at least six months in oak barrels.

GRAN RESERVA is the term for wines made in the best years.  Reds must be aged for at least 60 months with at least twenty four months in oak barrels and the rest of the aging done in the bottles.  Whites must be aged at least 48 months with a minimum of six months in oak barrel.

With some of the basic information at hand, attending the wine festival, especially the grand tasting nights where an array of Spanish wines await, would be more enticing, productive and appreciated.

I am quite sure, when the popularity of Spanish wines increases in BC, the shelf space would be expanded, which means we would get our hands on more outstanding and reasonably priced wines from Spain.

The flying ‘Dao Xiao Mien’ of Legendary Noodle

Stephanie Yuen


Lunch was over 2 hours ago, but the aroma of garlic, rice vinegar and chili flakes still lingers in my mouth, triggering the palate to fall back again and again into the satisfying moments earlier of biting into slices after slices of al dente Dao Xiao Mien.

What is Dao Xiao Mien?  Well, that’s the direct phonic translation of thin slices of dough; both the slicing and the dough are done by hand. The place is Legendary Noodles on Main Street, between King Edward & E.26th), a small eatery with a capacity of no more than 30.  A second Legendary Noodles is located on Denman, near English Beach, similar size with similar décor; even the menus are quite similar.


The tiny kitchen stays at the back of the Main Street restaurant, big enough for a stacked-up prep counter, a small noodle counter that faces the dining room, the 2 chefs and the stoves. If you stand up in your seat and watch, you can see the non-stop actions there: The waitress dropping off orders and yelling out special requests, the chef who tends to the noodles is either pulling noodles on the counter or slicing noodles. If you come closer, you can see how he holds up a big piece of dough, glides on the top with a square-shaped knife and how the slices fly from his knife and drops right into the pot of rumbling water in front of him. The other chef works with the wok the finishing touches, including pan-frying onion cakes and pot-stickers, and boiling dumplings.  Between the two of them, bowls and plates of delectable are passing through continuously. 

Mr. Lee used to be the one standing in the kitchen looking after all the culinary aspect of things. As the owner and still the chief chef, he now takes on a more managerial, less laboured role. But he teaches the new generations well, the always full dining room tells no lie.

Lunch was shared by Henry my husband and me.  He ordered the Lanzhou Lamb noodle soup and opted for the hand-pulled noodles.  Mrs. Lee who looks after the dining room told us the stock is a long-boil soup made with lamb meat, that’s why the sweet, wholesome flavour with such a clear colour.  As a noodle fan, I do enjoy their hand-pulled noodles and helped myself to a bowlful.  In the soup were shredded siuchoy that worked wonderfully with the delicate hand-pulled noodles, with chunks of plain lamb meats, nothing else seemed needed to make this a wonderful meal!

My must choice at my every visit is, well you guess it, the Dao Xiao Mien. Silky as a wonton wrap, chewy like ravioli and tender as marshmallows, these hand-sliced noodles goes well with anything!  Today I opted for a vegetarian dry noodle mixed with red pepper, broccoli, spinach and bean sprouts and bean soy sauce.  The Chinese name of this dish is ‘Oil-splashed noodle’, meaning that the ingredients are blanched in sizzling oil first and pour onto the noodles, mix well and walla, a plate of intense al dente pleasure, a vegetarian comfort food!

The two cold plates we had included one vegetable dish – a shredded potato salad with a touch of sweet vinegar seasoning; the other was a plate of thinly sliced,  mildly spiced tendon stripped from the outer layer of the shank, Henry said this would be a cold beer’s best company!


Hester Creek Winery

Henry Yuen

Like a heritage house undergoing a face-lift, the latest styles and designs would likely be considered as part of the renovations; however, upholding as much of classic characters and nostalgic feels of the building is of utmost importance. As one of the longest established wineries in the Golden Mile region of the Okanagan, Hester Creek Winery has just gone through a similar transformation. A beautiful guest villa with a Tuscan theme; new wine room, new restaurant, along with new trendy activities such as cooking classes, wine pairing events and concerts.  Above all these, there is an entirely new label to give the winery a complete new look and to visitors an exciting touring experience.  An aptly and timely evolution that gives a wider scope of recognition to Hester Creek Winery’s brand name and image.

According to general manager Mark Sheridan, what has not changed is the care and attention to details in the vineyards. Some of the vines are planted in the 60’s which are well suited to the terrain of the location; that still remains unchanged. However, effort is being made to fine tune each block to get maximum quality and yield. “But not necessarily quantity yield.” Mark stressed. “In fact, production might even decrease slightly to improve grape quality. Small parcels of different grapes will be retained such as the Trebbiano vines not found in other vineyards in British Columbia.” Winemaker Robert Summer continues to tend to both vertical and horizontal products and concentrates on smaller lot productions of high quality wines. While the planting acreage will be the same, strenuous efforts are made in the vineyards such as enhancing the drip irrigation system to improve the viticulture process.  “Making exceptional VQA wines is still the focus after all the years.” Both Mark and Robert are in total accord and harmony.

Lucky for wine lovers, there will be three new wines to be launched at the upcoming Vancouver Wine Festival. A 2009 “Character” Red is a blend of Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  A 2010 White is a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Trebbiano. A bull-bodied 2007 “Judge” Red is a blend of Merlot, Cabinet Franc and Cabinet Sauvignon. According to Mark, these are wines crafted with the intention of “concentrating on doing extremely well on a few things” and “is a true expression of the nature of the winery and the passion of the people behind it”. All these new wines are ready to be enjoyed and are easy to pair with most dishes of different food groups.

To avoid disappointment since they are not mass productions, the best ways to get a hand on these wines are through

the winery wine shop, order online, visit various private wine shops and those restaurants lucky enough to get an allotment!              


The Tuscan style Villa is Hester Creek's new addition