We are definitely in the middle of a Gin renaissance or Gin Craze, if you will. With distilleries popping up left and right, and the difficulties of laying down barreled spirit for years and years, gin is both a stream of revenue and an outlet for sensational creativity. You can extract nearly any flavour you can think of from many herbs, spices, nuts, berries and, really, nearly anything you can think of, and this, combined with the use of varied grains and distilling practices means that ethanol is more or less a blank canvas on which an artist can paint and layer swaths of sensations and create their vision rather than see what evolves out of wood and time.
For this little adventure through Gin land, we were lucky enough to have Last Best’s own Master Distiller Bryce Parsons to help guide us through some of the nuances of the practice, along with some first-hand knowledge of 3 of our 6 gins for the evening. We are equally if not more lucky to have our neighbour’s Peasant Cheese to provide food to gorge on while tasting! We started off with a simple cocktail I’ll describe later on, and dove right in!
What Makes Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir?
Pinot noir is not a grape to be messed with. It is notoriously difficult to grow, with it being nicknamed the heartbreak grape. It’s thin-skins burn easily in hot temperatures, and are too delicate in cold areas, so there are only a few areas where it thrives. The epicentre of Pinot Noir is Burgundy. Burgundy is located in central-eastern France, where is a mild continental climate, making ita suitable area for Pinot Noir. Another reason why Pinot Noir does so well there is because of the terroir. Millions of years ago, Burgundy was part of a vast, tropical sea, which in time created limestone soils famous in the region. Because of this geological makeup, Burgundian Pinot Noirs develop some zesty minerality that makes them irresistible.
Burgundian wines are the heart and soul of Pinot Noir or have been previously, but because of rising prices, people have started to look elsewhere for their pinots. But what other regions could compete with the OG Burgundy? That’s where this tasting comes in.
In this tasting, we explored Pinot Noirs from other regions, and if they could stand up to Burgundy. Given the restrictions of the tasting, we didn’t get to explore every region we wanted, but we chose wines that would best represent the main opposing regions; New Zealand, Australia, British Columbia, Oregon, and California.
Woo! This was my first rum tasting! So much fun deciding my lineup, figuring out what to talk about, research the points I’m not quite as clear on. Tasting through my lineup to set the order and prepare notes. It’s definitely one of the most fun parts of the job. It’s even more fun when I get to share all my knowledge and these tasty spirits with you all.
We went from India to Central America and the Caribbean and down to South America to taste some of the more interesting rums on my shelves. On the way, we got to talk a bit about Rhum Agricole Rum, along with the spirit’s ties to the navy, trade and -like all things back then- slavery.
We snacked on some specifically selected cheeses and sweet accompaniments from Peasant Cheese, and dove right in to taste the following.
February typically marks a shift here at Kensington Wine Market. You would think that January would slow down for us, but it doesn’t – at least not much. Christmas and New Years might be done but the first month of the year was crammed with events. We hit the ground running with the January Outturn on the 3rd and 4th followed by plenty of other wine, whisky and beer tastings over the following two weeks. Then the already fast pace became even more frenzied with three festivals, our sale weekend and then inventory all happening within only eleven days from the 17th to the 28th.
We are finished our big winter holiday rush and it almost feels as if there is time to breathe. Don’t get me wrong: I love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, especially working in a small shop like KWM. We are a tight-knit crew that typically gets along with little to no issues cropping up. Not that we would time for personality clashes or friction to come into play. The importance of momentum cannot be understated. Any serious strife would take too much planning and effort when you have to keep all of these plates spinning as well.
Those plates will keep on spinning, too. There is always plenty that needs to be done at the shop and seemingly never enough time to deal with it all. The pace may not be quite as chaotic and frenetic as it is from November (actually, more like early to mid-October) until the end of January, but that means we can look up, calmly take in our surroundings, and thank our lucky stars that we are all here, scoping out these wonderful green bottles once more.
As we enter a new year and work our pocketbooks through the holiday season hangover, there is nothing better than finding delicious wines that fit a budget. It happens to us all: we have a fantastic and very busy Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, or just time of the year where it seems like everything is and festive and celebratory. There are so many reasons to spend more money over the time, so it is fair that when January comes around all you want to do is tighten your wallet a bit but still enjoy the pleasures of life! That is what these tastings are all about. Finding wines that speak to you and don’t beat up your bank account. We try to find value-driven wines that are still well-made and delicious.
Going into this tasting I faced some of the dilemmas that I always seem to fight, which wines should I pour? I want to make sure that they are something that will be enjoyable for everyone, something different that we have never tried before, as well as things that are interesting. We are spoiled for options in the store so trying to decide what would work best is definitely something that takes some planning and creative decision-making. In the end, I was able to come up with a fun line-up and paired with some of the best cheese and charcuterie around from our neighbour’s Peasant Cheese. Continue reading
It’s time, it’s time! My annual tradition of balling out on stouts to kick off a new year of beer tastings! Typically this is one of my most popular tastings, though this year there was a slight slump in attendance. That’s okay though, because those that passed up the opportunity may regret it after seeing what was poured. They will rue the day! Next to mixed fermented and barrel fermented sour beers, stouts and porters are among the most expensive and thoughtful beers available. These sorts of tastings allow us to open the beers you may normally shy away from and share them among friends. On top of that, Peasant cheese puts together boards full of delicious snacks to go with our beverages. It’s a lot of value packed into a couple of hours!
It’s always fun to tweak these tastings to make something new and keep them fresh. Normally I would run the gamut of thick dark beers, and take you on a tour of porters, Baltic porters, Stouts, imperials and all the like. This time, however, I wanted to showcase modern beer making because with beer being at the absolute height of its popularity, it’s forcing the crowded brewing market to push creativity and boundaries. So there are a lot of flavours flying around, a lot of non-traditional ingredients and even new sub-styles (or maybe even sub-sub-styles?) being utilized and created. As much as I love a good ol’ classic stout, some of the world’s best brewers are incorporating some very special things into beer and creating things of true beauty. Strap yourself in and read on! Continue reading
Calgary can be a cold, cold place during these dark winter months. It’s a time of year where we want to cozy up as much as possible, with us cooking hearty meals, wearing as many layers as we can, and finding any excuse to cuddle up with a blanket and a good book. Given this time of year, there are very few people reaching for a cold, light, and crisp glass of wine after venturing out in -20 and -30-degree weather, so it is only fitting for us to focus on something bolder.
In this tasting, we are focusing on the most popular of all reds, Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted varietal on the planet, producing some of the world’s most sought after wines, According to my co-worker Bryan, we probably have some growing on the moon already. But what is it that makes Cabernet Sauvignon so popular? Why don’t we delve through the grape’s history and find out? Continue reading
Our Kensington Wine Market Bourbon tastings have been very popular over the past year, selling out quickly every time we host one. The upside of this beyond getting to open up new bottles of Bourbon and American Whiskey, is that each tasting gives us a new opportunity to poke fun at Trump. When we heard him saying that he did about preventing forest fires in California by raking the forest floor of all of that incredibly flammable material – something he apparently learned from those crafty Fins, the name of this Bourbon tasting pretty much wrote itself. Continue reading
Oh, it’s that time of year again where winter is now in full swing. The holidays are over, it’s getting colder (again), and now is the time to put on even more layers of winter clothing.
Even though we spend a lot of time complaining about the winter season here, there is still something quite endearing about it. We have an excuse to stay at home and cozy by the fireplace or spend as much time (and money) on the slopes, eat hearty meals (because a salad will not do when it’s -20 outside) and it’s the time of year when port is most enjoyable to consume.
There is a lot to enjoy with port, but what if we expand our horizons, and explore more fortified wines that are just as good as warming us up in the winter, and even some that will quench your thirst during the summer!
What is a fortified wine?
Fortified wine is a style of wine in which fermentation is stopped by the addition of a neutral wine based spirit (typically brandy or eau de vie). They can range from dry to sweet, depending on the style. In order to create the desired sweetness, the winemaker chooses when to add the spirit to the fermenting wine; If the winemaker is aiming to create a sweeter wine, they’ll add the spirit early on in the fermentation process, for a dryer style, they’ll add the spirit later.
The Tasting Lineup: All Fortified - All The TIme.
Happy New Year Everybody!
2018 seemed to fly by at a speed causing sonic shockwaves, becoming past history faster than it ever was present. Now, we are back, feet on the ground, in early 2019. New year to live in, new whisky to taste our way through. As it should be. Take a deep breath, allow yourself a quick stretch, then hop back aboard and buckle in once more for another spin around the sun. The pace of it all can be dizzying to be sure – that is why you should make time to sit back and relax every now and then. Is there a better way to do so than with seven new green bottles filled with cask strength goodness? I doubt it, and if there is I don’t really want to know about it anyhow.
The first Outturn of 2019 brings us a plethora of refill barrels and hogsheads, but a surprising amount variety as well. You would think that all of these once or twice (or more?!) used casks would give us a lot of bland and plain whisky, but they definitely do not. Variety and nuance can be found in this Outturn. Here is a peek at what is on the docket for SMWS Canada bottles this month: Continue reading