Some hot picks for Kyoto

Every time my wife S and I go to Kyoto, one of our all-time favourite cities, we discover new things to tell friends and family (and you) about. One of the single most popular posts on this blog is our 2009 Kyoto Guide. Recently, we’ve been blogging about some singularly spectacular things to do in Kyoto, such as staying in the city’s most unique ryokan-style resort, exploring Arashiyama, learning zen meditation, or taking a cooking class to learn some great Japanese home cooking techniques. The following are just a few more recommendations to add to my always growing list of hot picks for Kyoto – awesome things to see, do, eat or buy in this amazing city.  Continue Reading →

Wine Tasting – To spit or not to spit, and others

Wine Tasting

Everyone loves to try out a product befor

e buying. This is especially so for wines. Fortunately, many retailers today are organising theme-based wine tastings (by varietal, region or same producer across different vintages) so that we can test their wares before committing to purchase. Travellers are also putting scenic winery visits into holiday itineraries; once you’ve worked your way through a cellar door tasting, you’ll find it’s a highly addictive and enjoyable process. In a restaurant setting, however, a tasting is a very different thing. Because –when ordering by the bottle–you can’t just move on to the next wine if the one you tried isn’t to your exact tastes. Every kind of tasting has its own set of rules. Continue Reading →

Revisiting La Mar – a Peruvian favourite in New York City

La Mar is a restaurant that I first visited in Lima in the summer of 2009. I remember this place clearly because when I went with my classmates, we very coincidentally ran into other classmates who were also touring Peru at the same time. By that point on the trip, my friends had brought me to so many restaurants that I had already recognised Peru as an undiscovered gastronomic haven: they have over thirty types of corn and so many kinds of fruit that I had never encountered. Not to mention a huge number of stunning fusion dishes, a direct result of Peru’s many immigrant cultures. La Mar has restaurants throughout Latin America and has recently started expanding into the USA. Continue Reading →

A taste of Margaret River, Australia – Fraser Gallop Estate

Australian wine – almost a market synonym for Shiraz from South Australia. Known for its strong flavour, overwhelming ripeness and full body texture, Shiraz appears to one of be the favourite varietals for most Singaporean drinkers. Grown on a small corner of South Western Australia, with terrain and climate akin to the highly prized and reputable Bordeaux region in France, Margaret River has been setting the stage on fire with its own class of style.

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My love for Champagnes, plus a few suggestions

My wife S and I, like so many in our generation, are passionate about wine. That doesn’t make us experts. In fact, I’d say we’re pretty far from being considered experts. But we’ve tasted enough to both know what we like as well as to appreciate something really special. Unfortunately, the kind of wine we both enjoy the most, and drink the most of, is Champagne… I say “unfortunately” because Champagne is far from cheap. Sometimes it feels like we’re constantly stocking up and running out of bubbly, while our other white and red wine supplies stay pretty much constant. Continue Reading →

Sweltering days: a Pinot Grigio and a Rosé to cool off with

Up and coming white wine, Pinot Grigio.

Ah, Summer. The season of dressing light, ditching the covered shoes and bringing out the flip-flops. Hit the beach and bake the skin to a crisp brown. This may sound great for most people in the world but when you’re actually here in the midst of drowning humidity between 80 to 90 per cent and combined with average temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, it’s almost as if Singapore is a giant dim sum steamer. Continue Reading →

Enjoying extraordinary wines with sushi at Shinji by Kanesaka

Some things in life are a necessary indulgence. Shinji by Kanesaka (of famed two-Michelin starred chef Shinji Kanesaka) which exemplifies the best of Edomae-style sushi, essentially falls into this category. In particular, when one is bestowed the privilege of having Master Chef Koichiro Oshino cut for you. The evening was made even more special as some friends brought along some rare wine gems for us to pair with the sushi.

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New mixed wine lots

Regular readers will know that many months ago I decided to work with one of Singapore’s more interesting wine distributors to package some very unique mixed lots, available exclusively through this site. I’m very pleased that the cases sold really well – so well in fact that Estima, the distributor, has actually sold out of many of the wines in the two cases we put together.

After several rounds of tasting (which is always a blast), we’ve come up with two new lots for you all. This time, we’ve decided to reduce the number of bottles. Each lot has just six bottles. What’s really cool is that almost all of the below wines come from small, cult producers. You won’t see most of these wines on restaurant wine lists. Mostly because they are incredibly hard to come by.

The Starter Kit, priced at S$306 nett, has one white, one sticky and four reds. The white is one of my current favourite wines. In fact, I like it so much that after tasting it, I ended up buying 3 cases of it. The 2002 Coteaux du Loir Rouge Gorge, Domaine de Belliviere, is also really interesting. It has a distinct and lovely taste with a nice, long finish.

These are the wines:
2005 La Lune, Mark Angeli (Loire Valley, France)
2004 Les Calcinaires, Domaine Gauby (Roussillon, France)
1998 Virgin Hills (Victoria, Australia)
2002 Coteaux du Loir Rouge Gorge, Domaine de Belliviere (Loire Valley, France)
2002 Bebianito, Prieure Saint Jean de Bebian (Languedoc, France)
2003 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine des Chenes (Roussillon, France)

The Collector’s Kit, priced at S$830 nett, is made up of six exceptional wines. These, unlike the wines from the Starter Kit, probably should be laid down for a while and saved for your really special occasions. All of these wines are really unique, with distinct tastes and bouquets. The 1998, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Prieure Roch, is particularly special and rare. The vineyard is owned by the co-manager of Domaine Romanee Conti and these wines are hoarded by collectors.

Here are the wines:
2003, Vieilles Vignes Blanc, Domaine Gauby (Roussillon, France)
2001, Riesling Clos St Imer, Goldert Grand Cru, Domaine Burn (Alsace estate, Northern France)
2003, Saint Joseph Les Reflets, Francois Villard
2000, Chateau Beau Soleil, Pomerol
1998, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Prieure Roch
2003, Saumur Champigny, Chateau Yvonne

If you want more details on each of the wines, please click over here.

To order either of the two special mixed lots, please email Eric at eric@estima.com.sg or call Eric at +65 6226 3766 on Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 7.30pm. Your transaction will be handled by Estima directly. (Sorry, this is for Singapore-based readers only at this point.)

Special wine offer

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I’m a big wine lover. That said, I don’t often post on wine, mostly because there are so many great wine blogs and bloggers out there who are already doing a fantastic job, and doing it much better than I ever could. I’ve been lucky, over the years, to have had the chance to taste some excellent wines and more recently to get to know some great winemakers, retailers and distributors. A recent chance-meeting at a dinner party has given me the opportunity to work on something really exciting with a team of really passionate wine distributors based in Singapore.

In partnership with my new friends, I’ve helped put together two mixed lots of wine that are available for purchase. The first is a “starter kit”, i.e. a really (really) affordable collection of six fantastic wines. They’re perfect for buying and drinking right away. They are also perfect if you are just getting into wine. The second lot is more serious. It’s a “collector’s case” of twelve amazing wines from tiny, boutique vineyards in France. These are all special wines which you can buy, store and then open for those special occasions.

For info on how to purchase these, please click over to my Shop page. There you will find info on whom to contact, plus the prices for the two kits. Below is some detailed info on the various wines that we have selected for each of the two kits. Happy drinking!

Chubby Hubby Starter Kit
6 bottles, 3 bottles of red wine and 3 bottles of white wine.

These are the reds:
2003 Chateau Haut Barreyre (Bordeaux)
This wine comes from an estate that has been producing fine Bordeaux wines since the 18th Century. This sauvignon/Semillon grapes is a yummy wine which drinks well now but also ages well, increasing in depth and richness. It is well balanced with cherry-chocolate fruits and a fine acidity.
2003 Chianti Classico, domaine Castello di Rampella (Tuscany, Italy)
This yummy Italian is 85% San Giovese and 15% Cabernet Francs. It is a full bodied style with blackcurrants and spices and is very well balanced. It is a fantastic wine to pair with any meat course.
2001 La Chapelle de Bebian (Languedoc)
Prieure Saint Jean de Bebian has been leading the push to produce incredible wine in Languedoc since the late 1970s. The Grenache, Carignan and Syrah blend has a nose marked by leather and spices. The wine itself is soft and fresh with a taste of stewed fruits.

Here are the whites:
2003 Bourgogne Blanc, Dominique Laurent (Burgundy)
Another stunner from this crazy garagiste. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. It has a ripe and floral nose and is round and fresh on the palate.
2003 Ch. Barreyre (Bordeaux)
This estate has been producing fine Bordeaux wines since the 18th century. This Sauvignon-Semillon blend is perfect to start your meal with.
2004, Muscadet Expression d’Orthogneiss, Domaine de L’Ecu (Loire Valley)
Owner Guy Bossard is one of the pioneers of Bio Dynamic viticulture in France. He has also helped raised Muscadet wines to an astounding level of quality. This wine is very ripe and fresh.

Chubby Hubby’s “Collector’s Case”
12 bottles, 8 reds and 4 whites.

The reds:
2003 Beaune 1er Cru Vieilles Vignes, Dominique Laurent (Burgundy)
From one of Burgundy’s top garagistes, this wine is made only from “old vines” (which means they are pre-phylloxera vines, unlike those planted and used by most vineyards in France). This 100% Pinot Noir wine is bursting with flavour and has a nice finish.
2003 Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Les Vaucrains, Dominique Laurent (Burgundy)
Another stunner from Laurent. This 100% old vines Pinot Noir comes from one of the best parcels of land in Burgandy. The wine has a lovely texture and a character marked by blueberries, blackberries and strawberies.
1989 Chateau Du Puy (Bordeaux)
This estate, farmed by the Amoreau family for 400 years, is located in the Cotes de Francs appellation next to Saint Emilion. Bio dynamic viticulture and careful vinifications bring us a wine with great length, complexity and elegance.
2000 Chateau La Negly, L’Ancely (Languedoc)
A new expression of Languedoc wines made from Mourvedre and Grenache grabes. This is a powerful wine that has been aged in new oak for 24 months which helps concentrate the fruit and gives the wine a nice ripeness. The tannins are robust and give the wine a muscular structure.
1998 Prieure Saint Jean de Bebian (Languedoc)
This Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend is one of the most elegant wines made in the Languedoc region. It has a superb ripeness and notes of black fruits, cinnamon and black pepper on the nose.
2003 Le Clos des Fees, Domaine du Clos des Fees (Roussillon)
From one of the most promising estates of Southern France, this Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre blend is vinified in large and small French oak barrels. This very concentrated wine impresses with its silky texture, very fine tannins and its phenomenal length, revealing intense black fruits and aromatic herbal notes.
1995 Mas de Daumas Gassac (Languedoc)
Since the 1970s, Damas Gassac has been behind a push for better and better wines from Languedoc. An unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, this wine is a striking demonstration of the relevance of planting Cabernet outside the usual Bordeaux area. The wine displays Southern France’s wild side yet remains elegant.
2003 Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes, Tardieu-Laurent (Rhone)
Michel Tardieu is one of the most talented winemakers in the Rhone Valley. In partnership with Burgundian Dominique Laurent, he produces gorgeous wines. This Chateauneuf, made of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grown on “old vines”, is very rich and possesses a superb texture and fruit purity.

The Whites:
2004 Pouilly Fume Pur Sang, Didier Dagueneau (Loire Valley)
After 20 years of farming and vinifications, Didier Dagueneau is now reaching a cult status among white wine lovers around the world. Made of 100% Sauvignon grapes, these wines display an amazing blend of fruits, mineral and spices. They are truly in a league of their own.
2004 Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes blanc, Tardieu-Laurent (Rhone)
Made of Grenache blanc and Roussanne, this wine displays very fresh notes of fruit, spices, fenel and dill, without the heaviness sometimes found in white Chateauneufs. Great ageing potential.
2004 Anjou Vignes Francaises, La Sansonniere (Loire Valley)
Mark Angeli is one of the most important producers in the Loire Valley. For the past 15 years, he has questioned bad viticultural habits and has been promoting a return to more natural and sensible farming methods. This wine, made form 100% Chenin French vines not grafted on US rootstocks displays a pure blend of ripe white and yellow fruits underlined by spices. On the palate the wine is full and round with an amazing lightness.
2003 Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, Dominique Laurent (Burgundy)
Celebrated for his great red wines, Laurent is also a very talented white producer. Grown in one of the few Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy, this 100% Chardonnay Corton Charlemagne possesses superlative density and ripeness. The hallmark minerality of Corton Charlemagne is for the moment hiding behind the fruits, but a few years in bottle will bring the wine to a balanced glory.