2009, a great year to love food and wine, really it was. Of the 170+ restaurant meals and 350+ bottles of wine consumed there was much choice and many memorable moments, but it was the following that ‘hit the spot’ for the Canadian Wine Guy. Hope you get a chance to try a few of my ‘best’s of 2009’ in the upcoming year and send me a note when you do. Here are the First Place recipients:
Restaurant: In Sydney there are at least 10 restaurants you can go to and be blown away with style, quality and flavour. Of all the cities I have traveled to, this one on the opposite side of the world ranks first overall for total experience. Sydney’s truly diverse culture and heavy south-east Asian influence leads to great creativity, but mostly the quality and innovativeness comes from the demanding locals. You would be hard pressed to find a larger concentration of ‘foodies’ then you would on this sun-drenched paradise. Fusion of all sorts can be found throughout: Thai, Malay, Chinese or even weird twists on good old fashion English style cooking (try and picture that!).
After my second visit this year I could have easily chosen two or three Sydney restaurants as the best of 2009, but when you have one restaurant that stands out so much further then the others, it may indicate well enough that one choice is sufficient. For this choice, the 2009 Top CWG Restaurant is the Spice Temple. Neil Perry has taken his reputation as an outstanding chef and restauranteur and lived up to it. The decor, the intriguing specialty cocktail list (named after the twelve Chinese zodiac signs), great tea selection, striking presentation and scrumptious food, all of this equates to something simply not found in Canada yet. If there was one thing I’d like to export from Sydney this one would give the weather and beaches a good run for the money. If you are in Sydney, get on the phone, make reservations and ensure you get to the Spice Temple at least once.
Inexpensive Wine: As a true lover of wine it is hard to go through all the bottles and choose a wine from a category with many worthwhile candidates as ‘the best’. For this selection I decided to go for a wine that we simply cannot grow tired of. In our house there are many different wines that could classify as the regular ‘vin ordinaire’, we have whites and reds of that genre for sure. If you were to ask many close friends of mine, they’d probably guess a Bordeaux style red would land itself in this spot, best inexpensive wine of 2009, but this year that would be presumptuous. This year we are going with a terrific little find from Burgundy, the best inexpensive wine of 2009, Alain Gras’ Saint-Romain Blanc 2006. This 100% Chardonnay wine is all I’d expect from a wine two to three times it’s cost. Good fruit, solid acidity, hints of minerality and overall just an amazingly polished Burg. To get all this for only $24 is remarkable. Mrs CWG has deemed it an essential part of our white selection and I am still intrigued that you can find it in Toronto to this date as the wine-maker does not produce in high volumes. If you get a chance, and like white Burgundy’s, you need to go out and get one of these. If you already have some, feel fortunate as you will also be rewarded with cellaring.
Expensive Wine: Well then, on to the really fun category. We have tossed back quite a few expensive bottles this year, not sure if that is a good thing or a bad one (nah it’s all good). We’ve had some great Bordeaux’s, a top house Margaux stands out. We have suffered through a few bold Italian reds (I hope you feel for us) that went down faster then expected. We have had to endure a few amazing Californian Cabs that left us wanting for more. Despite all those fantastic wines (and sadly a few pure stinkers) we ended up choosing a white (!?!) as our 2009 expensive wine of the year. A WHITE, me, a self-proclaimed Bordeaux man, pure travesty I say. Well if you had the 2007 Tapannapa Tiers Chardonnay you might as well throw a few bottles aside for it. To state that this is one of the world’s finest Chardonnays may be brash, it may sound silly, but truly it is. Brian Croser has outdone himself with his signature Chardonnay. It is everything you can ask for, balanced, velvety, good fruit, good length. The terroir of the Tiers plantings (who’s brother/sister wine the Petaluma Tiers shares fruit) is one of the best in the world, the Adelaide Hills area is ideally suited to grow Chardonnay and Croser has made the most of it. I think it is hard for me to admit that the best wine I have had during 2009 was a white wine, really it is, but I am very proud to have bought several bottles of this (and the Petaluma) and will ensure that going forward I will make a dedicated effort to collect future vintages as outside of Penfold’s Grange you will be hard pressed to find a more ‘wow’ wine coming from the land down under.
Desert Wine/Port: Well Icewine had to make it’s appearance somewhere on this list, if not someone may revoke my ‘Canadian’ card, eh! 2009’s best desert wine/port was without a doubt the Peller Estates 2005 Signature Series ‘Oak Aged’ Icewine. With over 5 international medals (with a gold at the prestigious Concours Mondial de Vin (Brussels)) this wine has done it’s job to get the wall-hangings. What it has also done is bring forward an icewine that is more then just sweet and fruity. It is silky smooth with a long finish. It is chewy with hints of caramel while showing great citrus fruit. Lastly it is simply delightful. As with any icewine of good quality, this wine was not made to simply accompany a crumble pie, it can be had with hearty cheeses or on it’s own by the fire. If you have never actually had icewine you are doing yourself a disservice as it is not a one-trick pony. So often the wine Canada has perfected is pushed off by serious oenophiles, do not let their upwards turned noses get the better of you, go out and spend the money to taste liquid gold, in this case Peller Estates has produce one such wine.
That wraps up 2009, I hope that in 2010 I can get back to a schedule that allows for more regular reviews and wine thoughts/information. Until then, please enjoy each wine, one sip at a time.
– Canadian Wine Guy