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Wines from the Old World

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VANCOUVER – Friday saw a Seattle evening like none other that Pacific Northwest has ever seen. High on a ferris wheel, a marriage proposal was made, and an answer was blurted out. The answer, however, has become one of concern: “It appears to be a series of sobs, which are believed to have been made in an organized pattern,”  states Dr. Francis Deane, professor of political science at the University of Manitoba.

On February 13th, in Seattle, Washington , Aidin Ashkieh, who moved to Canada from Iran, proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Allie Kidner, born and raised in British Columbia.. For immediate family members, the news of her acceptance has been revered in great delight, but conspiracy theorists are examining the video more closely. Dr. Deane has come out as one of the most potent figures of this issue. He was the first major voice to provide credibility to any of the claims which first arose on a local right-wing radio talk show, The Patriot.  These claims have since made there way to top government officials.

“We have listened to the number  of sobs Ms. Kidner takes before giving a muddled ‘yes,’ but it’s the number of sobs which occur after the acceptance which is the cause of concern,” Deane told KBC in a telephone call. “We believe there is some sort of code hidden within not only the number and consistency of the sobs, but also the volume. After listening to the recording more than a dozen times, this theory has become more and more likely to be one of political motivation with a message to be sent back to Tehran.”

Deane and his assistants have conducted many experiments in the last 48 hours and have sent the recording to decoding specialists at the  Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

The CSIS has denied any knowledge of receiving the recording and were unable to comment on any of the security measures taken for the possible threat. “We, at CSIC, are aware of the situation, but we have not obtained a recording of the proposal from Dr. Deane or from any other parties,” said the CSIS in a recent statement posted online.  “The importance of this situation cannot be undermined, but without certain proof, the government of Canada will not be able to take any steps to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”

The Canadian government hasn’t yet released any information to the press, but some are speculating that government officials are discussing the events with the Iranian embassy.

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Allie Kidner and an unknown person embrace with her alleged marriage proposal answer.

The entire ordeal comes at an inconvenient time for the Canadian government, whose Foreign Minister, John Baird, stepped down two weeks ago, which some think is the reason for the timing of this proposal and video.  As Deane says, “We think that if the Canadian foreign ministry was as organized as it normally would have been, this would never have been a situation, and the video wouldn’t have been leaked. Naturally, Baird would have already sent ground troops into Iran, but without him, we’re still looking for proof.”

Althought Mr. Ashkieh and Ms. Kidner have been unavailable for comment, they have recently posted a photo on the online social networking site Facebook, verifying her acceptance of the proposal in written words, but to Dr. Deane the photo is a greater cause for conercern: “If you look carefully at the photo, you can definitely see some inconsistencies. Why is the first person pronoun “I” written in lower case? Who is Ms. Kidner hugging in the photo? And why is there a fence in the lower right-hand corner? We won’t rest until we find the true meaning behind all of this.”

By Pat LeBlanc, KNP Global

Written by Liam Kidner

February 16, 2015 at 10:51 am

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It’s Better to Smell of Wine…

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In Italy, one is never any stranger to food and wine. Lunch is a daily celebration, and dinner can easily become a ritual in the holy act of foodly consumption. In the region of Emilia-Romagna, the identity of food and local cuisine are respected far beyond many other aspects of life. This is the region where some of the world’s favorite condiments were created, and structured global cuisine into what it is today. It’s the home of balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, prosciutto crudu, and bolognese, shaping the most renowned kitchen artists into slaves of delivering their goods. Next to the plate, you will always find some of the most compatible wines to bring out the true beauty of each dish; Lambrusco, Cagnina di Romagna, and Trebbiano, to name a few. The cusine of Emilia-Romagna is more than a way of life: it’s tradition. It’s shaped the culture from generation to generation, through crisis and war, in poverty and prosperity. Cradled eloquently inside the tradition are philosophies about food and wine which continue to be nurtured today.

So, where, in this crazy world of multi-cultural cuisine does one find a typical dish from Emilia-Romagna? In Emilia-Romagna, of course. Consistently dispersed throughout the region are bakeries lining the streets of every city. Here, one can try such typical baked goods as erbazzone and gnocco fritto, often eaten as snacks between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner. This fast food revolution of quick feeds has occupied areas which once concentrated on local, home-made dishes. These meals are filling and delicious, but to get a true, fresh taste of Emilia-Romagna, a small trip to the small towns and villages outside of city centers is strongly encouraged.

In a small village called Casalgrande, about twenty kilometers from the center of Reggio Emilia, is the newly-formed Ristorante Badessa. Since opening a little over a year ago, Ristorante Badessa is already recognized throughout the area as the place to be if you want to eat local dishes. To be given this reputation is a well-earned dignity, established through hard work and a unique philosophy. The concept is simple: Kilometer Zero. Built on the same principal as the “Hundred Mile Diet”, this ensures that all ingredients are at their highest state of freshness, while also supporting local businesses. Owner Alberto Ruozzi describes Kilometer Zero as constructing a “sort of a family of the food”, bringing the ingredients from nearby into the Badessa kitchen, and creating the final product right there. He explains: “it is important to think about the food like culture and history. These two things are linked, and the guests that come inside my restaurant think that it is important to eat a good meal prepared by hand.” From the bread, wine and coffee, to the vinegar and cheese, everything that ends up on a patron’s plate is fresh from Emilian sources. “In this age… is is unusual in Italian restaurants,” he goes on, as he pours me a glass of Chardonnay made a few kilometers down the road. Though four courses, I was guided through a fabulous dosage of the finest Emilian food and drink.

The Chardonnay I was given was, like most Chardonnays in the region, sparkling. The carbonation inside the wine was beautifully matched with the unusual aromatics of the grape. Chardonnay has always been a very one-dimensional grape for me, and I always find that without oak and malolactic fermentation, the finished product has too much of a latex aroma to it, and the palate lacks complexity. The nose from this particular wine was grassy and herbacious, similar to that of a Sauvignon. Once on the palate, the Sauvignon characteristics remained consistent. To pair with the Chardonnay, I was fed a leek omelette lightly drizzled with a dark sauce based from saba, a special grape syrup. On the side was a selection of naturally preserved home-made salamis and prosciutto crudo, to be eaten with gnocco fritto, which is a typical light pastry fried in oil. Then came the Lambrusco. As Ruozzi poured me a glass, he told me about the winery in which he grew up. The house was attached to a wine cellar, where his father produced wine and he was able to learn the trade. Over the past few years, after spending his lifetime immersed in the industry, he has been making his own wine, which is now being sold at the restaurant. The Lambrusco, which I was about to drink, by that particular winery, Cantina Masone Campogalliano. Lambrusco is arguably the most typical wine from Emilia-Romagna, fusing it’s identity with the food and landscape of the region. The grape lacks sweetness, and is therefore often fermented into a dry wine, carbonated, and leaving a slightly bitter finish. The acidity of Lambrusco is high, and as soon as the wine hit the bottom of my glass and I could see the deep crimson that was inside, I could tell this was going to be a real treat. The nose was filled with strawberry and forest fruits with a slight leafy overtone. As the bubbles gently crossed my palate, filling my cheeks and into my nasal cavity, a strong flavor of ripe berries supported the combination. There was a slight smokey sensation sitting at the back of my palate, and that Lambrusco acidity was beautifully balanced among this complexity. Between myself and the wine glass was placed the next plate to eat: a variety of tortelli, a particular pasta from the region, which is basically a slightly larger version of tortellini. There were three versions on the plate in front of me: one set stuffed with leek drizzled in a fresh balsamic dressing, another set gorging with savoy cabbage peppered with pieces of crackling, and finally the caramelle della baddessa, which are filled with tender duck. The pairing of Lambrusco and tortelli is very typically Reggiano, given that these two items are some of the most recognized of the local cuisine. My stomach was beginning to bulge, and I began to wonder if I would have room for coffee and dessert. The Chardonnay and Lambrusco went down very smoothly, and the bottle of the latter was nearly polished off, since every bite I took, I also had to have some wine in my mouth to wash it down and experience the fantastic pairing. Then, much to my dismay or delight (I hadn’t decided yet) came another course: a plate of different meats consisting of baked quail, a roasted lamb chop with fresh rosemary, accompanied by a tender beef steak infused with juniper and our beloved Lambrusco.  I looked down at the plate, unsure of how I was going to manage to fit all this food inside of me. Curiosity and desire overcame me, and I stuck a fork into the steak, and brought a piece to my mouth. Soon I realized that I would have absolutely no problem finishing everything that sat in front of me. Sure, it may become painful at some point, and I would have to perhaps step outside and take a stroll around the building, but there was no way I was going to let any of it get away from me (and I do declare that once, I did have to step outside in order to attempt a gain at more space inside of my belly). As wonderful and delicious as this specific variety of meats was, what sat beside it was what my focus was on. Ruozzi had opened up a bottle of his Cabernet Sauvignon, which he calls Cacciolino. The grapes came from his vineyard, pruned to be low-yielding, focusing on the flavor in the fruit remaining on the vines. In 2009, the summer was very hot and very dry. This was difficult not only for the Italians, but also for the vines. In that year, eighteen of his Sauvignon vines dried up and died, but he refused to water in order to create a higher concentration of taste inside the grapes. As soon at the cork came out of the bottle, from across the table, a waft of dark forest fruit came at me and surrounded my senses. I began to tingle with excitement as the crimson wine poured into my glass. I restrained for a few minutes after giving it a gentle swirl, letting the oxygen settle comfortably into the liquid, but already my taste buds were jumping up and down. I stuck my nose in, gave a big sniff, and sat back to enjoy the abundance of cassis, wild strawberry, and blackberry. Having this wine in my mouth was an honor. Flavours of coffee and tobacco danced through me, balancing a light acidity and spiciness with delicate tannin. Raspberry, dark cherry, and vanilla were charging across my palate, and I let them repel down my throat, massaging my throat with their spice. The finish was that of chocolate and vanilla draped over dark fruits; but what really stuck out about this wine was the mineral characteristic.  The minerals quenched me in every sense that I had, while keeping me wanting more. Needless to say, the bottle was finished by the end of meat selection, and as the end approached I noticed there was a little bit more sediment than what I was normally used to for a bottle of this age. “Why would I filter this wine?” Ruozzi asked rhetorically. I sat back as the plates and empty glasses were taken from the table. My belt buckle had managed to change notches without me even noticing, and my belly was smiling happily, though maybe a little uncomfortably. Ruozzi then brought me then a small glass of home-made nocino, a liquor made from walnuts to aid my digestion. His business partner, Luca Ferrari, who is the one putting to great use his creativity and skill inside the kitchen, personally delivered to my table his renowned zuppa inglese, a local take on English-style trifle. To go with this is Badessa‘s coffee from beans roasted fresh inside the restaurant. This delicious dessert proved to be a perfect finish to a massive meal. No matter how large it was, though, I polished the plate that the pudding came on as well as possible.

In the dialect of Emilia-Romagna, there are many references to food through song traditional phrases. One piece of paper which was sitting at the table I had reserved had an old proverb written on it, which said “L’èe dmei pusèr ‘dvein che d’oli sant“, which roughly translates into “it’s better to smell of wine than of death”. Wise words. I reflected on this as I left the restaurant, and figured I’d eaten well enough to live by this. I smelt, what is probably the farthest thing from death (or starvation, at least), but I was certain that I smelt of wine, given the status of the bottles that were left on the table. Fortunately, I had a ride home.

Written by Liam Kidner

March 31, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Judean Hills

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One of the most spectacular things about wine – – one of my callings – – is the historical significance. It’s one of the oldest industries in the world (alongside prostitution and war), and has always taken a large role in our ancient civilization. The Greeks had Dionysus (Bacchus),  the Egyptians had Osiris, and Jesus turned water into wine, in one of his most famous miracles.

Trudging through an absurdly hot August in Israel gave me lots of time to reflect (and sometimes hallucinate) exactly where I was and what I was dealing with. The Judean hills sit just outside of Jerusalem, where Abraham planted the first biblical grapes. One would think that the wine industry here would have been booming for the last few thousand years, but after the Caliphate conquest in the middle ages, many of he natural vines were ripped up under Islamic law. Since then, Bordeaux wine guru Edmond J. Rothschild re-established the local wine industry in the late 19th century by importing French vines and European technical know-how.  Soon the Palestinian region was beginning to flourish, and after the creation of modern Israel, winemakers from Europe and Australia were moving in to work with the new area of Mediterranean wines.

In the 1970s, vines began to be planted in the Golan Heights, producing immaculate grapes for wine-making purposes. The basalt terroir, full of volcanic soils, made a wine-maker’s job a relatively easy one compared to many regions around the Mediterranean. The industry in Golan erupted, much like the surrounding volcanoes used to ions ago, and the cannons of territorial war did until very recently. Vineyards blossomed, and fruit orchards were supplemented with grapes in order to gain access to this quickly growing industry.

Not long after, the Judean Hills region to the south, sitting just outside of Jerusalem, began to plant more vines as well. Mostly, grapes were planted for personal use, but as money began to fly in the North, the southern region began to get in on this momentum.

On my tour through Judea, I had the pleasure to visit one of the first wineries created in the modern Judean Hills, Domaine du Castel. Wine-maker Eli Ben Zaken planted the first vines in 1983 and began to make wine for his family and friends. In the last three decades, this modest hobby has turned into a 100 000 bottle organization, and has landed Ben Zaken’s name on the top of  the list of Israeli winemakers. Like many wineries in Israeli, Castel’s wines are Kosher, which means that the complete wine-making process is executed by religious workers. Castel has a small repertoire of wines: a couple of Bordeaux blends, and a Chardonnay, whose grapes are all harvested at the on-site vineyard, or a nearby vineyard managed by a small Kibbutz.

Myself and my party ventured into the tasting room; a small room with antique decor, set to make like an vintage European dining room. The wines were placed in front of us, along with a plate of local, Kosher cheese, paired wonderfully to the wines by our sommelier, Ruth. The Chardonnay, under the label “Blanc du Castel” is crisp and clean. As someone who generally does not run towards Chardonnay, this was a wonderfully palatable wine, which I found myself wanting more of. The use of French oak was very well balanced with the subtle acidity in the wine. The fruity finish left an excellent feeling inside of my body as I was engulfed with a surge of coolness to trump the awesome heat that surrounded my body, still warm from walking through the vineyards. As we began our ascent into the reds, my mind wandered back to when Ruth took us below the crush pad and into the immaculately organized barrel hall. French oak lines the walls like obedient soldier’s waiting for their moment to be heroes. They were filled, or were to be filled, with spectacular wines, and give their part into the ageing process of what was to be in my mouth. We first tasted first the Petit Castel, a majority of which is based off of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s completed with Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. The first taste was sharp on my tongue, with a tannic finish, but as I drank the second sip I got a really good feel for what the wine had to offer. It sat in the middle of my palate, balancing as the tannins of the Petit Verdot lapped again the insides of my cheeks. Once I swallowed, I felt the soft finish of Malbec, the velvet, slipping down the back of my tongue towards my throat. The finish was Cabernet Franc: airy and peppery, all the way up into my nasal cavity, and it was all supported by the Cab Sauv, like an army general keeping everything in order. The next item on the list was the flagship wine of Domain du Castel, the Castel Grand Vin. This blend is very similar to the Petit Castel, only in that has a longer maturing period in oak barrels. The winery uses only brand new French barrels, which is something that is seen as a bit odd in most parts of the world. Somehow, though, 22 months in new oak doesn’t seem to effect the brilliance of the fruit used inside of these blends. The Grand Vin had a much softer overtone to it, and the Petit Verdot seemed to be completely lost underneath, perhaps due to the long time in the cellars. The Merlot was definitely more prominent in this wine, winning it’s seat over the Cabernet Franc. This provided a delicious coffee tone to the blend mixed with cranberry, strawberry, and a variety of red fruit. Once the wine was down my throat, I was pleasantly surprised with the strong shock of blackcurrant that in my mouth, mixed with that classic subtle touch of vanilla and nut that only new French can offer. To add to these wines were the amazing cheeses that Ruth had also put before us. Every one of these cheeses, of which there were four, tasted delicious with every one of the wines. Three were goat cheese, and one was from sheep, which really added a whole other dimension to what the wine has to offer as you sit at your dining room table, or outside in the garden, snacking on whatever appetizer you have lying about. These wines were flexible, and I soon found out whenI spent the next night in Jerusalem, that the Blanc du Castel even tastes great on it’s own in a hotel room.

Domaine du Castel provided an excellent insight into Judean wines. Wrapped up in all the delicious flavours and amazing aromas of wines, there was the history that dates back to the biblical era, and also the cradle of the modern-day Judean Hills wine industry. Castel has been well reputed as one of the best wines in not only Israel, but of the entire Mediterranean wine venture. The roster of wines is small, but the taste is big. The reds will age extremely well, so a case of each is good enough to enjoy for the next six or seven years. In the meantime, have some Blanc du Castel to refrain yourself from dipping into your ageing cellar.

Written by Liam Kidner

September 8, 2011 at 7:21 am