A big round of applause to the 36th Vancouver International Wine Festival

pouring red wine

Words & Pix: Henry Yuen

Judging by the public response, the media coverage and all the sold out events, the just-ended Vancouver wine festival, already at its 36th year, was no doubt a huge success. Once again, Vancouverites’ overall interest in wines was verified. Also demonstrated was their high level of understanding and appreciating both the New World and Old World wines.

Look no further than the layered crowd gathered at the French wine-tasting stations at the main tasting room.  French wines; inevitably; still carry the suave and draw mystic amongst the minds of wine lovers. Even though Bordeaux was just one of the nine French regions represented, it still was the much revered tasting section and crowds were there all night long. I am sure if there is ever a special event in Vancouver that focuses on Bordeaux wines, it’s guaranteed to be vibrantly successful.

Glad to be able to taste my way through stations where apparently presenters from other French wine regions were there to offer their signature wines to tantalize everyone’s taste bud. The Burgundy, Rhone and Loire regions all have exceptional wines on display and information to share. From fruity and floral whites to the sophisticated and intense reds, there were no shortage of wine profiles to suit all desires.  Can’t argue that the 52 participating French wineries was a small representation of French wines in terms of numbers, nevertheless, their presentations solidified the calibre of old world French wines and verified their pride and passion already etched in our minds.

The well-attended “All About Bubbly” event indicated our adoration towards bubbles and of course, Champagne!  Here, we learnt how the ranking of Champagne applied fittingly into the sparkling wine category. “Ultimate”, “Premium”, “Revered” were the vocabularies common amongst wine lovers who, swirling and sipping tentatively, were describing the sensational feel of Champagne they encountered. French wines and Champagne definitely performed their wine festival anchor job beautifully. I firmly believe these two were the ultimate keys that laid such a strong fab foundation to the entire event.


Having said that, it’s nice to see a good number of fine products from other wine regions of the world were also poured. Kudos to our very own local wine producers who did not disappoint either; more than 25 BC wineries had tasting stations at the festival.  These were outstanding representations of tasty and exceptional wines. We understand it was costly to participate in the wine festival, however, what better venue and opportunity it was to showcase your wines and tell your side of the story to a highly focused group who know their wines pretty well? Vancouver wine drinkers have come a long way in terms of expectation and taste buds. We have a lot more exposures to quality wines through the good efforts and visionary of wine merchants, wineries, vineyards, restaurants and those who help and make things happen.  Vancouver International Wine Festival who has been creating waves and stamping statements year after year is inarguably the very important factor. Cheers to organizers and volunteers for their hard work and dedication to a good cause!

domaine de babio

Wines worth tasting:

Champagne Lanson Exrta Age Blanc de Blanc NV

Champagne Thienot Blanc de Noirs 2006

Cave De Lugny Cremant De Bourgogne Rose NV  $24.99

Domaine De Longue Toque Gigondas 2011

Romain Duvernay Hermitage 2009

Chateau Rey La Tour Reserve 2009

Domaine de longue toqueChateau Dubourg Saint-Emilion 2011

Chateau Fourcas Hosten 2005

Domaine De Babio 2010 Minervois

Cave De Rasteau La Domeliere 2011  $19.99

El Petit Bonhomme Blanco

Antano Crianza Rioja 2009  $12.95

Villa Teresa Organic Rose Frizzante N/V  $17.49

Haywire The Bub  $24.99

Cremont de bourgogneCastano Hecula 2011  $15.99

Domaines Paul Mas Estate Malbec 2012  $15.99

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Carmenere 2011 $19.99

Hester Creek Character Red VQA 2012  $19.95

Domaine Bousquet Organic Malbec 2012  $15.99



Famiglia Supper Series – Communal Table at La Pentola

Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen


I always love communal tables, quite likely because that’s how meals are served in Asian homes; but more so because communal meals allow you to enjoy multiple courses all at once! When the invitation to go to last month’s La Pentola Famiglia Supper, I shouted out a big “YES”! What could be better than a rustic Italian dinner served family style inside Yaletown’s most notorious boutique hotel on a cold and damp Sunday evening?

Opus’s family supper served communal style is a great way to meet new friends, embrace the culinary culture of Italy and of course, share a bottle or two of wines. This is also a great venue to create your own supper event – a special celebration or a birthday party – when your food is prepared by a talented chef and served by friendly and able staffs. The best part, the 10-course dinner is at $55 per person, boiling down to $5.50 per course each!

I’ve been told about the scrumptious La Pentola Famiglia Supper Series which takes place every last Sunday evening of the month only here, and was warned beforehand to bring a big appetite. To prepare, I walked extra distance to the next Skytrain Station and hopped onto the train, surely glad I did!

IMG_6067Once seated at the round table where my friend Kelina and I were greeted by fellow ‘diners’, we ordered our drinks. Not usually a cocktail fan, only because my stomach doesn’t always agree with the recipes, but I found myself sipping away the tall glass of Opus Bar’s featured cocktail “Montmorency” infused with orange and vanilla aromas. With certain resistance, I reminded myself to go easy with the drink since the first platter of the 10-course family supper arrived.

Here’s the 10-course menu we indulged that evening:

Speck (cured meat), mustard fruits (pear and zucchini), canederli (bread dumplings) – Can’t believe how wonderful it was to start a meal with poached pear and fluffy dumplings that reminded me of mini green onion pancakes.



Carne salata, greens, parmesan – What a plate of colourful lettuce – oh, more parmesan please!



Trout, apple puree, roasted chestnuts – Apple and trout? Yes, they’re meant to be together!


Fennel and blood orange salad, pine nuts, speck. – The pairing of the fennel and blood orange was as good as how the fennel was cooked.

Spatzle, duck confit, duck jus – A juicy and moist version of spatzle that complemented the duck jus beautifully.


Salt cod, potato, cauliflower, caraway – I fell in love with cauliflower all over again, and again!


Tortellini with brown butter and sage – That’s what al dente was all about.IMG_6084

Cotechino, lentils, squash, Brussels sprouts – The pork sausage (cotechino) using all renegade meats such as pork rind, cheek, neck muscle and shoulder was singing my tune.



Grilled venison, porcini, polenta, juniper butter – What to devour first, the venison, the porcini or the polenta?



Tamarind Ice Cream – treated acidity of tamarind cut through nicely with the silky ice cream. The slice of meat on top was bacon!IMG_6099 Chef Lucais Syme has prepared a roasted pig and a lamb for previous Famiglia suppers, but the above 10 courses showcased classic Italian cooking technique and communal fares perfectly. The next family supper will be this Sunday, Feb 23rd.  Reservation is recommended. 604-642-0557


Xishi Lounge brews Chinese New Year Afternoon Tea


Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen 


It could be because February is the prime time to celebrate Lunar New Year; could be this is how Shangri-la Hotel says ‘Thank you!” and “Happy New Year of the Horse!”, the graceful Xishi Lounge is treating those born in the year of the horse to a complimentary Afternoon Tea during this month of February, all you have to do is bring one or more friends belonging to other animal signs with you!

I’m sure you’ve been to this 5-diamond hotel at the corner of Georgia and Thurlow, but how often do you stop by the huge painting of Chinese calligraphy and give yourself a moment or two to drift into the free-flowing energy the painting is emitting?  This majestic painting has always been one of the reasons I choose to walk into the hotel via the main entrance off W. Georgian. The other reasons? To grasp the charming elegance of the hotel lounge and enjoy the view up the few steps leading to the greeting area of Xishi Lounge where the warm, calming and relaxing mood is waiting to embrace me!   IMAG0030Enjoying a cup of tea is, after all, the moment to relax your body and mind, ergo the mellow pace! Once seated, soak in the harmonious décor and soothing ambiance; do leave any worries outside and soon, you will not even notice the hustle and bustle of downtown.IMAG0032

Be reminded that “Afternoon Tea” is more than well, a cup of tea; do allow yourself ample leisure time, especially now at Xishi where Chinese New Year celebration meets ‘High Tea’. You’ll be glad to hear that this special “Chinese New Year Afternoon Tea” is served daily, starting at 11am to 5pm; meaning that you can turn the afternoon tea time into brunch or lunch! IMAG0035

Right now and till the end of February, with your selection of fine teas is the classic 3-tier full of  delights. Besides the orange and plain scones with jam and clotted home-made cream, you are going to be tempted by savouries such as BBQ pork brioche buns, juicy and crispy Duck eggrolls, Smoked salmon bagel and Curry tofu wraps. What about Coconut New Year cakes, mini egg-tarts along with Green tea opera cakes for dessert?  To finish (or to start for some), a bowl of Sesame Tan-ren in ginger syrup!IMG_6117

To top these off, there’s live Chinese music performance every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3-5pm.  Info and reservation (highly recommended) – 604-661-3352


February means non-stop food, wine & fun


This weekend – Granville Island

Jump onto the Olympic bandwagon at Edible Canada House

What better way to interrupt winter and celebrate Canada’s Sochi Olympic medal counts and our Olympic hopefuls?

First of all, the annual Winterruption Festival is taking place this weekend. There are numbers of activities for the whole family. Secondly, the iconic Edible Canada Bistro right in the Market (underneath the Granville Street Bridge in the heart of Granville Island) is hosting an Olympic-themed “Edible Canada House” and every Team Canada fan is invited! It is also family friendly with a play area and face painting by the Granville Island Toy Company.

Edible Canada House is featuring a number of live and pre-recorded Olympic events on three giant projection screens. Guests are welcomed party the night away while cheering on the nation’s top athletes. In true Edible Canada fashion, the theme will be quintessential Canadian.

There are of course food!  Besides an array of comfort food fare provided by Edible Canada such as cheesy perogies, multiple ‘Savoury Chef’ food stations showcasing classic Canadian such as bison chili, Alberta beef brisket & maple flapjacks and other late night snacks!

Granville Island Brewing is there to supply the craft beer; along with many other local wines and spirits being poured over the course of the weekend. Don’t miss Edible’s famous “Garnish Your Own” Caesar bar.

The event ran all day and into early mornings yesterday and will continue today Saturday and tomorrow Sunday with an amazing lineup of bands and DJ’s! Check out program details and ticket info: http://www.ediblecanada.com/tours-and-events/events/edible-canada-house-2014/#sthash.FArtt2Sv.dpuf

On February 27 – Market Restaurant at Shangri-la Hotel

French wine & Market pairing dinnerWinemaker Caroline Frey

To set your drinking palate into the French mode and get set for the International Wine Festival, why not pamper yourselves with a food & wine marriage made at Shangri-la Hotel?

Caroline Frey, winemaker for Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné and Château La Lagune, will host a special winemaker’s dinner that celebrates the Burgundy and the Rhône Valley of France, their history, their terroir, their exceptional people and their exceptional wines. The reception and four course dinner will feature some of the winery’s favourite wines paired with a MARKET menu. Tickets are $149 per person and are available by telephone at (604) 695-1115.


February 28 – Market lounge at Shangri-la Hotel

Cannonball Wine Gourmet Pizza & Wine Party,

Mirroring the philosophy of the Cannonball Wine Company from California, this approachable event is serious about quality, Cannonball winehonesty, and enjoying life. Hosted by CEO and Founding Partner, Yoav Gila, the event will take place in the MARKET lounge where for $35, guests will be treated to MARKET’s gourmet signature pizzas alongside Cannonball’s signature wines including their celebrated chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. The event starts at 6:30 pm and tickets are available by telephone at (604) 695-1115



Finding good value wines

IMG_5455Words: Henry Yuen

Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans

Any way you look at it, wine prices in B.C. are higher than most other places. Chalk it up to the taxes involved and the way wine distribution is managed in this province. Having said that, let it be known the theory is that your purchase of wine is contributing to the government coffers to support health care, education, transportation…etc. directly or indirectly. So every bottle you drink, you are helping out in some way, perhaps this will make you feel better! In spite of that, there is no reason why the effort of finding good value wines should be diminished. The satisfaction in finding wines is when the price to value ratio is high, given that fact that there is a host of reasons why sometimes wine price is not a good judge of the quality. Higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is higher in ratio.

The upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival has an event on March 01 called 25 under $25 where you can taste 25 very good wines all priced at under $25. Here is the list of the wines that wouldn’t go wrong in any occasion:

Domaine Bousquet Malbec Organic 2012

Peter Lehmann Wines Layers Red 2011

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2012

Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Pinot Blanc 2012

Burrowing Owl Winery Chardonnay 2011

Haywire The Bub Traditional Method Sparkling Wine 2012

Hester Creek Estate Winery Character Red VQA 2012

Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery Single Vineyard Carmenère 2011

Famille Bougrier Vouvray AOC -Famille Bougrier 2012

Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé

Marrenon Classique Luberon Rosé 2012

Ogier Côtes du Rhône Heritages Blanc 2012

Domaines Paul Mas Estate Malbec 2011

Pfaffenheim Pinot Gris 2012

Cave de Rasteau La Domelière 2011

Fontanafredda Barbera Piemonte “Briccotondo” DOC 2012

MASI Agricola S.p.A. Masianco 2012

Vini Tonon Villa Teresa Organic Rose Frizzante

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Ramos Pinto Douro Vinho Tinto Duas Quintas Red 2010

Nederburg Manor House Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Bodegas Castaño Hecula 2011

Nathalie Bonhomme El Petit Bonhomme Blanco 2012

Concannon Vineyard Conservancy Petite Sirah 2009

West Coast Wine Partners Lake Sonoma Russian River Chardonnay 2012

Perez Cruz CS

There are others worthy of consideration in the price range of around $25.  Most will be available at government liquor stores but some will need to be purchased from private wine shops or VQA stores.  Due to the costly underlying fees, some wineries cannot afford listing wine at government liquor stores, hence the limitation on released quantity. All better for making the wine shopping exercise more adventurous and finding good-valued wines more exciting!

While I will report on VIWF list after the tasting event, here are my favourites from a series of recent wine tastings:

Sumac Ridge Steller Jay Brut

Summerhill Cipes Brut

Oak Bay Vineyard Gewurztraminer

Haywire Pinot Gris

Bodega Norton Privada

Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon

Valle Las Acequias Malbec

Coyam – Emiliana Colchagua Orgainc

Sideral – Altair Rapel Valley

Concha Y Toro Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon

Santa Rita Medalla Real Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon

Edge North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Prices and availability do vary a bit depending on location of purchase, vintages or stocks on hand. However, these fit in nicely my personal taste profile and some wouldn’t hurt cellaring a year or two before uncorking them. Cheers!

2011 haywire PN     Summerhill Cipes

Niagara Wine Regions

IMG_5384Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans

Words: Henry Yuen    Pix: Stephanie Yuen

My wife and I visited Niagara Wine Regions for the first time recently.  We were so taken by their natural beauty and by how country-like and nostalgic the areas were; we left with a fantastic impression and the promise to a return trip in the Summer time.

The stay at this quaint little town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, a historic town with lots of characters, was equally lovely. Only about an hour’s drive from Toronto, Niagara-on-the-lake took me by surprise – I would never imagine one could get away from all the hustle and bustle of Toronto in such a short time.  It’s like entering into another world where all of a sudden everything stands still for a moment waiting to embrace you. With its heritage buildings, neat and unique arts & craft shops, tree- lined mansions and top rated restaurants, the town itself is like a movie-set. The picturesque country side and scenic trails along Niagara River take your breath away.  We stayed at this charming sea-side “Harbour House” that welcomed guests with country-style warmth and pampered everyone with cozy décor and top-notched hospitality which included home-style buffet breakfast daily. The town, the scenic drive and the leisurely stay were key elements making this Niagara Wine Tour memorable and exceptional. But most impressive were the wines I tasted!  IMG_5331


Our first wine stop was a relatively new winery in Beamsville, the Good Earth Winery possesses the look and the feel of a charming country farm house. With their first vintage planted in 2008 in the 55 acres of orchard-converted vineyard. The short distance to the lake that brings breeze and adequate moisture benefits the vineyards. The soil profile is predominately sandy and loam on flat surface. Proprietor Nicolette Novak greeted us with open arms as if we were her next door neighbours. The extended warm welcome included a delicious lunch at her bistro, starting with a wine tasting with Nicolette in the tasting room/wine shop.IMG_5258

IMG_5279The Good Earth wines:

2010 Chardonnay: Well-balanced wine with enough citrus and weight on the palate.

The 2010 Riesling: Has adequate acidity and sweetness for a crispy finish.

The Betty’s Blend: Predominately Chardonnay; with Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc to round out this wine with stone fruit and bake apple aromas and a delicate smooth finish.IMG_5269IMG_5274

Reds sampled with our lunch:

2012 Gamay Noir: Lovely aroma with lots of fruit on the palate.

2010 Pinot Noir:  A lighter body structure with good presence of black fruit bouquet and a smooth finish.

2011 Cabernet Franc: Infused with subtle tobacco and red berries aroma and a balanced finish due to 12 months in oak treatment.

After a hearty home-style but nicely plated luncheon, we headed for Rosewood Estate Winery, the only winery in Ontario to operate as both a winery and a meadery. Greeted by William Roman, Operations Manager & Beemaster whose family founded Rosewood. With European heritage, they brought with them expertise in both areas – grape growing and beekeeping. But it was their foresight to establish their operation in the Niagara region that made it all happened. Fast forward to today with the first planting in 2003, the winery is producing award winning wines and the mead wines are equally impressive and delicious. With 10 acres in the Beamsville Bench and another 20 acres in the Twenty-Mile Bench, Rosewood is producing over 7,000 cases with hand pruning and zero irrigation. Vineyard management emphasis on the production and caring of quality grapes. Being a third generation of beekeeping, they understand how to take advantage of the beekeeping operation to benefit vineyard health, such as helping grapes to set during blooming season. Harvested honey is used to make top rated mead (honey wine) and other products.  After a tour of the operation and especially the eye-opening and educational session on beekeeping, set in the most natural environment in the back valley, we could not help but appreciate what Rosewood has been doing. Our heightened anticipation took us into the tasting room which showcased their efforts and products very well.IMG_5293


Rosewood’s wines:

2012 Reserve Riesling: An off dry version with a hint of melon and honeydew that is crisp, juicy and with a slight hint of minerality.

2010 Merlot: 100% Merlot with 14 months in a combination of American, French and Hungarian oak. The nose is luscious with lots of berries and good tannins on the palate. Definitely a fruit forward wine to fully express the terrior of the Beamsville region.

We don’t know much about honey wines but what we tasted were delicious and could be substituted for any late harvest wines to pair with desserts. The 2010 Harvest Gold is un-oaked with refreshing aroma of peach and pear. The uniqueness of this wine is that it is produced from wildflower honey to give it the floral fragrant and unique taste profile as compared to other regular honey wines. Besides dessert, it is a mead wine that can also pair well with some spicy dishes and soft cheeses.



IMG_5296After checking into the charming Harbour House right beside the river, we headed to Charles Inn for a sumptuous dinner. A Victorian mansion with 12 guest rooms, the restaurant is a return to the 19th century nostalgic room with a menu offering classic dishes using local ingredients. We’re quite surprised by how young but creative Chef Spirling was! After dinner, we retreated back to the Harbour house and relaxed in front of the fire place for some “R&R” time in our cozy suite This classic and luxurious inn has all the amenities to pamper guests and make them feel welcome and looking for a return booking.

IMG_5369 IMG_5352

The next morning, a short drive took us to the Stratus Vineyards. We noticed some grapes were still on the vines and was told some harvesting was yet to be done, thanks to the permitting weather development and the micro climate in that area. A modern facility with high expectation, Stratus is a winery that is progressive in their daily practice while simultaneously stressing sustainability and good vineyard management. With 55 acres planted since 2000 on 62 acres of land, the focus is on low yield to produce better fruits. They average about 10,000 cases annually that weights in quality rather than quantity. The pump-free winery operation is designed to utilize gravity to render tenderness during transportation and processing with minimal bruising. To avoid pumping of the juice, elevator is used to move the tanks and containers after hand sorting so there is very limited impact. 100% French oak usage  with 12 to 24 months aging is the norm and the barrels are retired after just two vintages.


Stratus Vineyard’s wines:

The 2009 Stratus White: A blend of Semillion, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Gewürztraminer. With the 1st vintage in 2000, it has developed good acidity with bright Asian fruits aroma and a gentle, pleasant dry finish.

2009 Stratus Red:  This luscious red with aroma of berries and anise is a blend of 42% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah, 13% Petit Verdot and 5% Tannat and is equally impressive.  On the palate, there are plum and black currents with a slight hint of mint and herb to round out this medium bodied red with delicate oak treatment.IMG_5379

IMG_5390The 2009 Stratus Cabernet Franc: A classic Niagara cool climate and low yield (1 ton/acre) Cabernet Franc with lots of cherries and berries aroma. The 20 months with 47% in new French oak adds tantalizling smokiness with a hint of spice. A Cabernet Franc done really well that is fruit forward and with balanced tannins. A good candidate for the cellar!

The 2012 Stratus Icewine Red has sweet nectar with aroma of peach and stone fruit, sensational on its own.

A short drive away is the Ravine Vineyards on 34 acres with 19 acres under vines. Owned by the same family since 1867, it is an organic vineyard with responsible and sustainable vineyard management. We noticed there are no windmills and no bird bangers on site indicating the St. David Bench area has adequate air flow for the vines to flourish. There were still Riesling and some Cabernet Franc on the vines telling us the relatively long growing season allows the opportunity to manage the vines for hand harvesting under the best possible condition. At the characteristic tasting room, we had the opportunity to taste some of the signature lineup and were impressed.IMG_5394


IMG_5391Ravine Vineyards’  wines:

2011 Cabernet Franc: Medium-bodies with lots of red fruits and well- structured tannins.

2011 Meritage: More refined and nicely-structured with a well-balanced effort.IMG_5392

We also tasted both the 2010 and 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon where the different vintages offering slightly different intrigue and taste profile. The lineups for the white wine are also well-represented.

2011 Riesling: Good acidity and deliciously loaded with bright fruit.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc: Packs in a lot of melon and grape fruit aroma, a beautiful patio sipper.

2011 Chardonnay: Well-crafted and has a lot to offer in the finish. This is a nice Chardonnay to represent this region.

2011 Gewurztraminer: Floral and beautiful bouquet with reserved sweetness.

Vidal and Cabernet Franc ice wines:  True expression of the Niagara-On-the-Lake region ice wines that fills the mouth with sensational fruity sweetness and peach nectar that lingers on the palate.

Followed by lunch in their adjacent award winning Ravine Restaurant where European trained chef Paul Harber showcased his craftsmanship. We had more wines to go along with our unpretentious but divine dishes recommended by the very knowledgeable serving staff.


In the afternoon, we arrived at 125-acre Reif Estate Winery set along the picturesque Niagara Parkway. Reif has established at the very same location since 1977 with the 1st vintage in 1982. The proprietor packs over 300 years of European winemaking experience within the family. The vineyard has drain pipes to channel away moisture to induce stress on the vines which results in more vigorous growth. Being close to the river, the site has 7 windmills to drive the cool air away.

IMG_5405The vineyard management philosophy strives on innovation and sustainability. After a tour of the facility with Klaus Reif, we were led to the well-designed tasting room for a Food & Wine Sensory Experience. Instead of straight forward wine tasting, a wine and cheese session was offered to educate us on the finer details of wine appreciation. Different wine glasses were used and different local cheeses were presented to enhance the appreciation of the wines. The exercise was to showcase; with proper stemware, food flavour and texture to evoke the senses; the joy of embracing the wine appreciation experience.

IMG_5401  IMG_5404

Reif Estate Winery’s wines:

2010 White Meritage is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon under cool fermentation to maintain the bright fruit and acidity level. The Meritage served in aromatic glass was paired with a semi-soft cheese from Five Brothers cheese Farm.

2010 Chardonnay Reserve served in balloon glasses were from old vines planted in 1981 with 18 months in French and American oak to give it the luxurious buttery feel and baked apple aroma. This is paired with hand-crafted cheese from the Upper Canada Cheese Company.

The 2010 Merlot Reserve served in magnum glass was fermented on its skin for 12 days and aged in French and American barrels for 12 months rendering lots of plum and dark cherries upon entry that ends with a smooth lengthy finish. This Merlot was paired with old-fashioned cheddar from the Thornloe Cheese Company.

The 2012 Vidal Icewine served in dessert glass was from 26 years old vines and carried a lot of peach and apricot flavour with balanced sweetness and acidity. This dessert wine was paired with an earthy and salty cow’s milk semi-soft blue cheese from Thornloe Cheese Company.


Highlight of the evening was the dinner at Treadwell’s Farm to Table Cuisine. Local and in seasonal ingredients were the emphasis with all the local farms and producers listed on the menu to give diners a sense of what the Niagara farming community is all about.


The next morning we woke up to semi-cloudy sky and cool air, rather windy at times. We headed for the Southbrook Vineyards on the main road where a modern, state-of-the-art building and the Gold Level LEED certified winery facility (in2008) greeted us.

IMG_5441The operation was moved from Richmond Hill in 2005 to its current location of 150 acres, but planting is limited to 63 acres to protect natural terroir which is vital to this first certified organic and biodynamic vineyard in Canada. Vineyard management include efforts to induce some resistance to strengthen the vines, applying various natural herbs and substances as pesticides; and the protection of the natural surroundings to enhance the ecosystem. About 13,000 cases are produced annually by observing low yield practices. Owner, Bill Redelmeier, was there to greet us and was gracious to explain his operation and management concepts in detail. His passion for the respect of the land and his expectation of supporting the neighbourhood businesses for the long term common good flowed across. Sitting in the airy and open tasting room, we tasted all three tiers of Southbrook wines crafted with different emphasis.

Southbrook Vineyards’ wines:

The Triomphe include the lineup of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rose, Cabernet Merlot and a Red Blend. The 2012 Chardonnay is a cool climate Chardonnay with baked apple and melon aroma and a creamy mouth-feel. The 2011 Cabernet Franc has blueberry and cherries aroma with an earthy and luscious finish. The 2008 Cabernet Merlot is a well-balanced wine with enticing aroma of dark berries and plum. The entry is smooth with a lasting finish.


The Poetica lineup is not produced every year as only the highest quality grapes harvested would qualify.

IMG_5444The Whimsy are small batches, premium, artisanal wines where winemakers were given the freedom to express their own feelings, passions, expertise and artistic inkling. Their signatures are in every bottle to represent Southbrook Vineyard’s philosophy and strong suit.


After lunch at the Inn on the Twenty in another story-like village of Jordan that reminded us so much of a colonial hotel with classic settings and elegant interior designs. With lunch we sampled a selection of wines from Cave Spring Cellars, our next destination.


Cave Spring Cellars  locates just across street from the Inn. Established in 1986, it is truly a family business where the owners are active in the day to day operation. Now with 145 acres planted, production is in the range of 17,000 cases annually. The soil profile is mainly clay and sandstone with high limestone component that is especially good for Riesling. Old and new French, American and Hungarian medium toasted oak barrels are used in various combinations to enhance the profile of the wines.


Cave Spring Cellar’s wines:

The VQA estate bottled 2011 Riesling is from 10 year old vines. Bright fruit and melon aroma, this Riesling is crisp and juicy. I like the 2011 Estate Chenin Blanc which is packed with sweetness, grape fruit aroma and minerality. The Pinot Noir is a cool climate Pinot Noir that is jammy and supple on the palate. The Cabernet Franc upkeeps the excellence taste profile of grapes from the Niagara Peninsula Escarpment. The 2008 Riesling Icewine is burst with honeydew and nectarine aroma and on the palate.

IMG_5471IMG_5482After thoughts: It was an amazing trip, an eye-opener that allowed us to witness and appreciate how different Niagara Wine Regions are from those of BC. In terms of the accomplishments and passions of the people in the wine business, we are totally impressed.  With over 17,000 acres planted, Ontario wine regions are growing at a rapid pace. Even though the number of wineries is lower than British Columbia’s 250, the Ontario wineries count of over 140 is expanding with a strong business model of producing quality VQA wines with international fame. We visited different portfolios of small family style operations, each with its own energy and character; and large established wineries with resources and hospitality to provide top-rate guest experiences. Such a short distance from Toronto, Niagara-On-The-Lake is so beautiful, so worth a stroll, if not a vacation. It is a must destination for wine oenophile but for those who are looking for simply a relaxing and pampered vacation, this is definitely a hidden gem.IMG_5322


Stephanie celebrates Lunar New Year on TV – Recipes

S. Yuen recipe dish - crispy vermicelliWords & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Jan 28 (Tuesday) Global News Noon

Pan-fried vermicelli, shiitake mushroom & bean sprouts with Kalbi Sauce (Gold & silver noodle)


1 pkg 300 gms Taiwanese dried vermicelli

6 pcs T&T brand shiitake mushroom

8 oz. bean sprouts

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

¼ carrot, skinned and julienned

3 slices of ginger; leave skin on

2 cloves of garlic; crushed and remove skin

3 Tbsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinate Sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp sea salt

2 stalks green onions, into 2 inch julienne


-Soak vermicelli in cold water for at least 60 minutes, transfer to large drainer and let dry 10 minutes before cooking time.  Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cross cut the noodles a few times.

-Rinse mushroom well, hot water for at least 30 minutes or until softened

-Rinse bean sprouts and let dry in a drainer


Remove mushroom and squeeze off excess water, cut off stems and julienne. Keep 3 Tbsp of mushroom water and discard the rest.

Heat wok on high heat, add oil. Place ginger and garlic in oil, sizzle for 10 seconds, add mushroom, stir and cook for 2 minutes, add in bean sprouts and carrot. Stir and cook for another minute.

Add vermicelli, mix well. Add in all seasonings and mushroom water, stir and mix well. Cover and cook for 3 – 5 minutes. Add green onions. Ready to serve.


Jan 29 (Wednesday) CTV Morning – 8:40am

1/ Pan-fried Nian-gao (New Year cake) with shrimps and spinach, seasoned with Kalbi sauce.


2 cups of water

6 slices of ginger; leave skin on

8 oz. shelled shrimps

¼ tsp sea salt

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic; crushed and remove skin

1 pkg. 300 gm Nian-gao

3 Tbsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinate Sauce

1 tsp chili bean sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 tsp sugar

8 oz. spinach, cut in halves


Place 3 cups of water and 3 slices of ginger a small pot; bring to a full boil. Add shrimps and ¼ tsp sea salt. Cook for 30 seconds or when shrimps turn orange-red. Scoop shrimps into an icy bath. Drain and let dry when cold to the touch.

Heat oil in wok on high;  add remaining ginger and garlic, sizzle for few seconds. Add in Nian-gao. Stir and mix well, add in all seasonings. Stir and pan-fry for 2 minutes. Add in mushroom water, stir in spinach.  Mix and cook for another minute;  ready to serve.

2/ 10 mulit-grain rice pudding with coconut-milk (Sweet & harmony) garnished with  dried mango


Makes 4 bowls

½ cup T&T brand 10 multi-grain rice

1½ cup water

4 Tbsp brown sugar (more can be added as desired)

½ cup T&T brand coconut milk

4 slices T&T brand Philippine dried mango, thinly sliced.


Place rice in a medium stock pot, rinse 3 times and drained. Add 1½ cup water and bring to a boil on high, covered. Remove lid and stir the rice. Reduce heat to medium low, cook for 5 minutes, covered. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 – 8 minutes or until water is almost all gone. Add sugar and coconut milk, mix well. Cover and simmer for 1 minute. Scoop into 4 even bowls; add mango slices on top, ready to serve.

Jan 30 (Thursday)  CTV Noon News

Dish: Dumplings with Kalbi dipping sauce (Pan-fried or steamed)

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 pkg Frozen Chinese dumplings (your choice of stuffing) – keep frozen until cooking time

½ cup water


Place wok or pan on high heat. Add oil. Place dumplings in wok; bottoms down. When all dumplings are  in; cook for another 30 seconds. Empty water into wok, cover and cook for 4 – 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium, cook for another 2 minutes. Check for doneness by poking a sharp knife into a dumpling, if juice comes out clear, turn off heat. Serve with dipping sauce.

Veg dumpling

Kalbi Dipping Sauce Recipe (This can be cooked ahead of time)

¼ cup T&T Korean Kalbi Marinate sauce

2 Tbsp Chinese dark vinegar

1 tsp garlic chili bean sauce (optional)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp chopped ginger

Place all ingredients in a small pot, bring to a boil and serve in a bowl.


Jan 31 (Friday) The Rush on Shaw TV

Broiled dumplings in T&T brand chicken stock, seasoned with Kalbi sauce, garnished with julienned T&T brand shiitake mushroom, chopped green onion & cilantro.

Recipe: Serves 2

6 cups of water for boiling the dumplings

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 pkg T&T brand dumplings

1 can T&T brand chicken stock

½ cup water

3 pcs T&T brand Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, stem removed and julienned, keep mushroom water.

1 stalk green onions, chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro  

1 tsp T&T brand Korean Kalbi Marinade Sauce

Salt & white ground pepper to taste


Add 6 cups of water to a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Add oil. Place dumplings in the pot, cover and cook on high heat and bring to a boil. Remove lid and cook for another 5 – 8 minutes or until they are cooked through.

While waiting for the dumplings to be cooked, put chicken stock, ½ cup of water,  mushroom and mushroom water into a pot, bring to a boil on high, reduce to simmer.

When dumplings are ready; scoop 10 each into 2 large bowls. Distribute green onion, cilantro and Kalbi sauce evenly into each bowl. Using a slotted ladle, transfer dumplings into the bowls.  Bring soup to a light boil on high, ladle into the bowl and serve.


A Chinese New Year Feast prepared by T&T


Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen (http://taiyangbao.ca/food/311675/?variant=zh-hans )

Want to find out what the Imperial Emperor’s Chinese New Year dinners were like? No need to go to China, just head to T&T!

T&T has been doing a fine job when it comes to celebrating Asian festivals, especially Chinese New Year, which is just around the corner – Jan 31! As the Year of the Horse approaches, what greets you at T&T is a sea of red and gold.  Aisles lined with arrays of New Year goodies attract extra flows of traffics, even my non-Chinese friends are drawn in by that robust and joyous atmosphere.

IMG_6045Fares of all kinds: Savouries, sweets, nuts and seeds, ready to be popped into eager mouths; all bears auspicious meanings to render positive energies to this significant celebration. Their take-out Chinese New Year dishes are so well-received; the kitchen team at T&T has been working hard to come up with a more engaging menu.   Hence this year, the most eye-catching display is awarded to Imperial Chinese New Year dishes; designed and prepared by Chef Ge Fen, T&T’s very own culinary master leading their central kitchen. He delivers not only the divine flavours enjoyed by the emperor and his royal family, but the authenticity and blessings of traditional Chinese New Year gourmet!IMG_6037

In the large clay pot is layers of delicacies including abalone, sea cucumber and large shiitake mushrooms. Over there is a tea-smoked Fraser Valley goose, accompanied by fluffy buns.  Behind the goose is a poached to perfection whole chicken, complete with head, tail and a red sash for extra good luck.  The double-cooked and slow-steamed Pork Belly with fresh bamboo shoots glitter with shiny and seductive colour. In the other pot is the famous and very healthy herb and ginseng chicken soup which I tried and loved.  I also tasted the pot of Japanese meets Taiwanese pot of sticky rice topped with grilled eel.  And of course, everyone must have a little, no matter how full – the traditional round and steamed New Year cake for dessert.IMG_6040

Do not just adore the big and obvious platters; do take a look at the fine details Chef Ge attends to. What about the cone-shaped fluffy steamed buns? Those who’ve enjoyed the hot to the touch 6” steamed ‘Long John’ style white buns consist of soft strands known as “yin-zhee-juen” in Mandarin restaurants will find themselves biting into the same delectation – cushion- soft, silky, aromatic and reach-for-the-second buns.

All these imperial dishes are yours to take home, complete with re-heating instruction, so you can stay at home to enjoy a gourmet multi-course Chinese New Year dinner with your loved ones, but without the hassle of chopping and cooking!  Do phone in ahead to order so T&T can prepare them accordingly.

Happy ‘Year of the Horse’ to you all!

Wine Fest and More – You’re invited!

International wine fest 2013 David Niddrie pix

1)     VIWF Salutes French and Sparkling wines

The 36th Vancouver International Wine Festival, running from February 24, 2014 to March 02, 2014  will have 54 events of food and wine spreading out into 7 days. The theme for this year is France and the focus – Sparkling wines!

Total of 178 wineries from 14 countries will be participating and pouring over 1,000 wines at the general tasting session. 9 wine regions from France will be showcasing their wines. Come mingle with the vine stars and some of the city’s exciting chefs:

Theme Country Vine Stars: France

Michel Chapoutier, Winemaker, M. Chapoutier

Meet Michel Chapoutier in: Rhône Perfection: M. Chapoutier; Wine Tour de France; Meet Your Match; Insatiable Rhône      (at   Hawksworth restaurant, with chef David Hawksworth)

Etienne Hugel, Proprietor, Hugel et Fils
Meet Etienne Hugel in: What’s Trending in France? Masterclass; Iconic French Wines; France: Find Your Style

Thomas Perrin, Owner, Famille Perrin
Meet Thomas Perrin in: The Birthplace of Terroir masterclass; Iconic French Wines; 11th Annual Awards Lunch; Meet Your Match; Salut   Château Beaucastel (at Bistro Pastis with proprietor John Blakeley)

Sigfried Pic, International Export Director, Maison Louis Jadot
Meet Sigfried Pic in: Wine 305: Advanced Burgundy; The Birthplace of Terroir masterclass; Iconic French Wines; We Say Bourgogne;   France: Find Your Style; Nothing But Burgundy (at Le Crocodile with chef Michel Jacob)

Christian Seely, Managing Director, AXA Millésimes; President, Compagnie Médocaine
Meet Christian Seely in: Renaissance of a Top Château

Clovis Taittinger, Export Manager/Family Member, Champagne Taittinger
Meet Clovis Taittinger in: Wine Tour de France; All about Bubbly!Iconic French Wines; L’Instant Taittinger (at West with chef Quang Dang)

Philippe Zinck, Winemaker/Proprietor, Domaine Zinck Vins d’Alsace
Meet Philippe Zinck in: The Birthplace of Terroir masterclass; Wine Tour de France; France Bubbly Party

Rest of the World Vine Stars

Joe Giusti, Owner, Giusti Prosecco
Meet Joe Giusti in: All About Bubbly!

Matt Mavety, Winemaker, Blue Mountain
Meet Matt Mavety in: All About Bubbly!; 25 Under $25

Jak Meyer, Proprietor/Winemaker, Meyer Family Vineyards
Meet Jak Meyer in: Meet Your Match; Meyer Family Feast (at Brix   with chef Chris Bisaro); BC Paired: Indulge Your Senses

Barone Francesco Ricasoli, President, Barone Ricasoli
Meet Barone Francesco Ricasoli in: The Essence of Chianti winery   dinner (at Siena with owner Mark Taylor and chef      Jessica Howery); Dine Italia lunch (at La Terrazza with chef Gennaro Iorio); Excitement in a Glass

2013 wine festival glimpse

Besides general tasting, seminars, wine pairing dinners and luncheons events, new to this year’s wine festival are:

1. additional March 01 Saturday afternoon 3pm to 5pm general tasting session guarantee 30% less attendance so its easier to get to the booths.

2. 1 free ticket to the general tasting session if you book 1 night at one of 37 downtown hotels room through bevancouver.com or 2 tickets if book 2 nights.

Get your tickets early to avoid disappointment! For further information and tickets, please check out http://vanwinefest.ca

1)     Dinners with Sonoma County Vintners in Vancouver

Two exceptional Sonoma County winemaker dinners in   Vancouver.  Hurry up and get your   tickets as space is limited!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reception 6:30, Dinner 7:00

1/ Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar will   feature the wines of Sonoma County’s Siduri Wines and Novy Family   Wines, hosted by Siduri Proprietor Adam Lee. Blue Water’s Executive Chef,   Frank Pabst, will prepare a special four-course dinner menu to match the   wines.

1095 Hamilton Street, Vancouver

Tickets are $165 including taxes   and gratuities: purchase yours by calling 604-688-8078.

2/ Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar will showcase Rodney   Strong Vineyards, Wine Enthusiast’s 2013 American Winery of the Year. The   Sonoma County region winery’s top wines will be presented by Winemaker Rick   Sayre and paired with an unforgettable four-course dinner plus reception. The   main course will feature three of Rodney Strong’s award winning single   vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons.

1138 Homer Street, Vancouver

Tickets are $110 plus taxes and   gratuities: purchase yours by calling 604-915-9463.

Sonoma County

Sonoma in the City Wine Tasting Event

February 5th, the Sonoma in the City event will give Vancouverites a taste of the region’s quality and diversity, with more than 20 wineries and their principals pouring classic California varietals as well   as some pleasant surprises.

List of participating wineries:

  • Davis Bynum
  • Dry Creek Vineyard
  • Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery
  • Foppiano Vineyards
  • Francis Ford Coppola Winery
  • J Vineyards & Winery
  • Jordan
  • Kendall-Jackson
  • Kosta Browne Winery
  • Kunde Family Estate
  • Laurel Glen Vineyard
  • MacRostie Winery and Vineyards
  • Novy Family Wines
  • Paul Hobbs Winery
  • Pedroncelli Winery
  • Red Car Wines
  • Rodney Strong Wine Estates
  • Schug Carneros Estate Winery
  • Seghesio
  • Siduri Winery
  • Thomas George


Dine Out Galore

Henry & Stephanie Yuen (Chinese blog – http://taiyangbao.ca/food/304664/?variant=zj-hans  )

No matter if you’re a foodie or not, you’ve got to know about “Dine Out Vancouver”! Being in its 12th year, the chance of you hanging out with friends or families in one or more of the Dine Out participating restaurants during the 15 days of Dine Out in past years should be pretty high.

The fact is, from 40+ restaurants to the astounding number of 263 today, and that media from as far as Britain is discovering how successful “Dine Out Vancouver” has been, and with the price tags of $18, $28 and $38 for a 3-course meal, we Vancouverites should be supporting this wonderful food & wine event. Besides choosing and dining in any one or two or more of the 263 restaurants, there’re dozens of fun-filled events which are hosted by some of the city’s who’s who characters. For instance, our very own Man About Town Fred Lee (CBC & The Province) will be conducting The Grape Debate 2014 on Friday, Jan 31 at the Vancouver Public Library. $38 gets you into the Debate, followed by wine tasting presented by Alumni UBC and the Wine of British Columbia.????????????????????????

We urge you to log onto http://dineoutvancouver.com , check out the list of restaurants from each group and the different events taking place between Jan 17 to Feb 02, and book your seats ASAP! Don’t forget to find out how you can win prizes – what about ‘Dine Out For a Year Contest?

We started riding the Dine Out waves by previewing these three restaurants.

A)   Roma BurgerYaletown, W. 4th,  River District$18  and  $28

Located in three different areas with distinctly different backdrops, you may feel like the three Roma Burgers are not related.  Well, their settings and ambiance do vary, but they’re offering the same Dine Out menu.  There are plenty mains to choose from for non-burger fans; such as the Fish and Chips and a Quinoa Burger for vegetarian which is amazingly delicious and well-structured! But I guarantee you will fall in love with those appetizers and salads. No one says you cannot share your fries, the wings and of course, keep those mini donuts to yourself!


Drinks:  The mellow and fruity Prospect Winery Major Allen Merlot will not disappoint any wine sippers. Juicy, lengthy with subtle woody aroma, it does go well with the dripping burgers.  Most of the white wines are from our own backyard, plus a good selection of easy to please wine on taps. Craft beer fans can take a look at the black board for choices.

Our $18 recommendations:

The Fish Shack

Hapa Izakaya – Kitsilano

Luke’s Corner Bar & Kitchen

Memphis Blues

Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts – Bistro 101

Trattoria Italian Kitchen

       B. The Parker  $28

Another non-orthodox vegetarian restaurant in town whose slogan of ‘sustainable & sexy’ put them on the list of 2013’s new ‘hot spot’ in town.  Of course, Executive Chef Curtis Luk’s partake in the last Top Chef Canada had already given them the edge.  Everyone loves the fresh, local ingredients Luk sources and applies brilliantly.




The plates are so beautiful, the flavour and textures so rich, the execution in fine details, so please do not consume them in a flash,  take the Cauliflower appetizer as a great example – do enjoy with your eyes and noses first, than indulge – you may easily forget what you’re eating are non-meat dishes. IMG_5969

Drinks: Out of the 4-page menu, only 1+1/3 belongs to the food section, the remaining spaces are all about cocktails and wines, a strong indication of how much attention is given to making sure diners enjoy their liquid food as much.  Cocktails with fun or fancy names are very tempting, but we found the Liquidity white, a BC Okanagan blend to be quite a palate-pleaser. Floral and refreshing, this  will pair well with most of Chef Luk’s vegetarian creation.

Our $28 recommendations:

Cactus Club Café (Bentall, English Bay, Park Royal, Yaletown)

Café Pacifica (Pan Pacific Hotel)


Cibo Trattoria

Forage (Robson)

The Italian Kitchen (Alberni)

Le Parisien



Pier 73


Tap & Barrel (Coal Harbour, Olympic Village)

C. Wildebeest  $38

Located on Hastings in the Gastown district, Wildebeest interprets the ‘wild’ in its name artfully.  Daringly created dishes served communal style put the restaurant onto the honour roll. It did not take long at all for Wildebeest to develop its very own image and secured its luring power.IMG_5972

From a simple salad such as the Wildebeest Salad with crunchy apple, winter herbs and frozen mascarpone; the Lamb Tartare dressed with heritage onions, horseradish emulsion and mustard seed gastrique; to the Roasted Chick’etta’ with winter squash and black garlic vinaigrette, the dining process is a sensational experience. Please note: Dine Out menus are individual plates.



Drinks: Wildebeest offers an extensive wine list, including a couple of Junmai Sake. We thoroughly enjoyed what went into our glasses: Wildebeest’s own label wines, a red (Gamay & pinot Noir) and a white (Riesling, Gerwurztraminer & Pinot Gris) blend that match Chef Wes Young’s cooking style and food profile nicely.  A diligent collaboration with Road 13 Winery resulted in 50 cases of each blend. By the look of the crowds in the dining room, it won’t take long for Wildebeest to consider another new batch.

Our $38 recommendations.

Coast Restaurant

DIVA at the Met

Five Sails Restaurant

Hart House

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

The Keg



Yew Restaurant + Bar (Four Seasons Hotel)