I enjoyed high quality cheese varieties this week at one of the most well-known cheese cafes in Singapore, combined with some real good wines.
The Greenwood Avenue vicinity in Hillcrest Park is one of the best locales of Singapore evoking memories of an European town sans the benefit of a cooler temperature. There are only houses and some low-key shopping area here, but there are also some excellent restaurants, bars and cake shop, and all of it comes with free parking! Long time ago, I used to live not far from this place, and so I am familiar with the location.
The Cheese Artisans is an excellent choice if you are into cheeses. I was (and still am) only used to few varieties of cheeses that are available in the usual supermarkets, and my favourites have been Gouda and Edam. I like peppery, spicy and sometimes, the nutty varietals of cheese. The Cheese Artisans are completely different purveyors of direct-from-farm cheeses all from European farms. They have such a long cheese menu that the jaws drop and the eyes glaze – it is better to ask the waiter to put together a platter of different cheeses – some hard, some soft – and they do a good job based on the taste that you should describe to them before ordering. Walking into the cafe outlet located in Greenwood Avenue is an experience – you can not only look at the wines (many of which I haven’t seen before, but that is almost always the case!), the cheeses, the meats, etc., but also the cheese maturation facility where they store the cheese. I have never seen one before.
Suffice it to say that I relished the cheeses that they chose for me – I liked the blue cheese and the goat cheese as well. Of course, the wines were good too – I enjoyed the Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2015 from Marlborough/New Zealand, the Chateau Clinet Ronan by Clinet Bourdeaux 2013, and the famous Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Fay Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. All amazing wines, and to be enjoyed slowly with lots of cheese. You simply cannot go wrong with these wines. The suggestions by the waiters and the chef, as well as the service they provide seem impeccable, and suited to the newly initiated patrons who are just exploring cheeses for the first time in some detail.
The only thing I would suggest to the cafe is to have the right big bottom red wine glasses instead of using the same kind of glasses for both white and red. The red wines taste better with more breathing in a wider wine glass. Further, expensive wines need to be decanted for some 15 minutes before we can realise the full potential of the wine on our palate.
I would suggest that you try out The Cheese Artisans – it is not for the quickie grabs, but for a really leisurely evening play out with lots of talk and slow sampling of finest cheeses and sipping of full-bodied wines, all this will go to make a great evening, especially during these “winter” times that we are having in Singapore – rather “cold” at less than 23 deg C! The impact of climate change is being felt all over South East Asia now, which has been rather unusual. However, it provides a perfect setting for a great cheese adventure while you imagine you are in a farm in Switzerland!!
Have a great weekend, and enjoy your wines responsibly. Do not drink and drive. Avoid driving if you are drinking, like what I did – take a taxi which is the right thing to do (also, do not let another drunk companion drive you home!!!).
13th January 2018
My wine recommendations are closely watched? Ha Ha Ha……..Not yet…………..
Here are my three suggestions (I have added a “bonus” suggestion as well – look for it!):
- Peccavi No Regrets Cabernet Merlot 2014 – Australia
- Penley Estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – Australia
- Clos Apalta Limited Release 2012 – Chile
And, the “bonus” recommendation is Glacomo Montresor Amarone della Valpolicella – Italy.
I elected to select all red wines this time as I continue to diversify into more reds (my choices earlier were dominated by Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, probably also because I like to drink chilled drinks with some “hot” snacks!).
Let us first look at Peccavi from the Margaret River region of South West Australia. Not an expensive wine (which in my parlance means that it is around SGD 20 thereabouts), it demonstrates how a smooth, easy-drinking and fruity wine can create new interest in anyone. I felt this was almost a full-bodied wine with some nice acidity with a spiciness that I liked. That did not dilute its fruitiness. I also like it when the wine is ruby red in colour and slithers down the wide-bottomed red wine glass along the sides with a stickiness demonstrating the good quality of the wine. I would strongly recommend this wine for white wine drinkers who would like to try out some mildly complex red wines which are easy to drink. This is my choice when it comes to entertaining guests at the beginning of the conversation (!).
The Penley Estate produces some outstanding wines from Coonawarra, Australia. The Phoenix Cabernet Sauvigon from Penley Estate is more expensive in the range of SGD 30 to 40, so it is outside of my normal range for good value wines. However, this being the Christmas season, I decided to include it having recently tried this wine. I should say I was “floored” by the goodness of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Given its complexity and sophistication, I would suggest you unleash this on friends with some wine-drinking experience who usually go for red wines. It has dark, inky fruit with a flavourful delivery which you will enjoy. I am amazed at its sophistication in the price range it comes in (please note that this wine is available in Australia for around AUD 20 – lucky guys down under!).
Clos Apalta Limited Release 2012 from the Apalta region of the Colchagua Valley of Chile, is among top 1% of all wines in the world. It is VERY expensive, more than SGD 170. I happened to taste and enjoy it in a business meeting at The American Club of Singapore, and completely fell for it, though I haven’t had the chance to look for it or again try it, given its unaffordable price. This is a very sophisticated world-class Bordeaux-style blended wine with strong aromas of blueberry, very juicy and ripe wine. It is a full-bodied wine with a rich long finish. Great wine to be recommended to business associates or at a special family function. Why not Christmas? This is an elegant wine from Chile – if only they can offer it at half the price, then it would be worth importing it.
Now, let me come to my “bonus” suggestion for Christmas – this one is with a long name from where else, Italy, Glacomo Montresor Amarone della Valpolicella. This is in the range of SGD 30, so not very expensive. I do not usually go for Italian wines, but this time I was again “floored”. This is an amazing blended red wine, intense ruby red in colour, with juicy cherry flavours. It is easy-drinking which is a surprise for Italian wines I have tried in the past. It is smooth with a nice finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine. Again, I would recommend this as a starting wine for a friends’ get-together. Overall, a lovely wine at a not too expensive price for a festive occasion.
All these wines are amazing, and I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to try out. Of course, there is no shortage of excellent wines, the issue has always been the price-to-value ratio. I also found my usual run-of-the-mill wines on special offer this weekend, and I bought a couple of bottle. Lest you think that I am always thinking about wines and drinking them, please rest assured that I am yet to open my latest bottle of red wine bought yesterday (so I cannot write about it!).
Drink responsibly, and do not drive while under alcohol influence. The police are everywhere looking for drunk driving dudes, and it is better to save lives while saving oneself, and not get jailed during this festive season.
WISH YOU ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS 2017!
24th December 2017
After writing on a rather heavy topic, I decided to taste some wine!
Here it is – “Wild South Sauvignon Blanc 2016” from Wild South Vineyards, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Excellent white wine at an affordable price (discounted) of SGD 20 (INR 940 and USD 15). I am sure this wine is going to cost much cheaper in New Zealand. I just saw a website where this wine is available at SGD 18!
There is no need to order expensive wines as higher price does not always translate to a better wine. Most of the time I have seen that restaurants offer similar wines at prices higher than SGD 60 which is ridiculously high. I am increasingly coming around to the view that it is better to carry my own wine bottles to restaurants and incur a small corkage fee (most restaurants in the mid range now allow this practice).
I strongly believe that we should not pay an unnecessarily high price for wines in restaurants – my limit is twice the retail price and I stop at that. Nothing more!
Marlborough wines have never ceased to amaze me with their complexity and sophistication as a leading new world wine producing region from New Zealand, so far away that we rarely ever think of them. However, when choosing a sauvignon blanc at dinner time, I have always been partial towards Marlborough wines. They are great wines and should be enjoyed young.
This is a fresh and dry wine with heavy citrus and green apple influence which makes it come alive with a strong hint of acidity which tickles your palate. Excellent drinking wine with fruity aftertaste, and you keep going back for the next glass. Its light body makes one underestimate its sophistication, though it only has a light to medium finish.
It is still available at NTUC Fairprice Supermarket, and today being Sunday, it is time to go grocery shopping, right?
I would strongly recommend this wine for easy drinking. However, as usual, I would like to strongly suggest that you avoid too much of any alcohol, and do not drive after drinking. Think of not only yourself, but all those folks walking on the road.
Have a great weekend, whatever is left of it anyway!
19th November 2017
You may be curious, am I right?
What kind of title is that?
19 Crimes is a “Proclamation: 19 Crimes – Each declared by His Majesty to be punishable on Conviction by Transportation” – is actually a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon wine named “19 Crimes”! As per the bottle, “over 200 crimes could see you sent to Australia” – by the British Empire. “This Cabernet Sauvignon celebrates 19 of them because, well, one must start somewhere”!!!
Back to my review – this is an excellent wine at a very decent price. In fact, I will be heading out later today to pick up another bottle of this wine because my wife and I decided it is really a good wine which needs to be repeated (we rarely give that honour to inexpensive wines which are the usual fare based on my value-picking methodology – very few such wines have qualified for repeats).
The 19 Crimes Cabernet Sauvignon is a very smooth Cab and goes well on its own. I enjoyed its smooth finish as well. The velvety hit on the palate was a sensation which I relished – it also had a complex sweetness which my wife appreciated. This is a vibrant wine well structured to be enjoyed right away. I would recommend this wine any time, and happy to see that this wine was not atrociously out-priced which would have limited the number of folks who would have chosen such a wine not knowing how good it really is.
Surely worth going for one more!
The second wine I am reviewing in this post is “Baby Doll Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough NZ”. This is a good white waiting to be discovered in Singapore – I had not seen this wine on the shelves all these years. I found this at the Singapore Swimming Club’s multi-cuisine restaurant ( I went through a real experience of forgetting to pick up the wine while leaving the Club, and then found out next morning that the Club has impeccable housekeeping practices which resulted in the discovery and return of the bottle to me unscathed!).
This is a crisp and pleasant wine with a mineral finish. A fruity wine with a balance characteristic of Marlborough wines, this is a wine which can be enjoyed on its own. A bit pricey though at SGD 33, needs to be within SGD 25 to meet my criteria of excellent wine at a good price. There are several world-class Sauvignon Blanc wines from Marlborough and I have enjoyed many of them over the years. It is difficult for me to say no to a Marlborough wine any time!
Enjoy your wines responsibly and do not drink and drive.
I am sure you will agree that these two wines are out of the ordinary, not widely encountered, and still pretty good.
10th September 2017
I have written about Montes wines in the past blog posts. Montes vineyard is famous for its outstanding wines, located in the Colchagua Valley of Central Chile.
Merlots are getting more and more popular out here in Singapore, I see many Merlots on the shelves in supermarkets as well as in specialty wine stores. Obviously, the flavourful fruity medium-bodies Merlot wines are catching the attention of new (as well as seasoned) wine drinkers.
The Montes Classic Series 2015 Merlot is a fantastic Merlot, very drinkable, very fruity and was surprisingly available at an affordable price! I quickly grabbed it, and I was not disappointed at all. I have never tried the Merlot from Montes in the past – it has been Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay so far. However, once you see the familiar Montes name and the flying maiden’s picture on the bottle, it becomes an easy decision!
I have developed my wine tasting skills over the past decade and a half, and so I was able to sync up with what Montes claims to be the characteristics of the wine – in this case, I can clearly feel the “fruitiness” (and most people will do almost instantaneously), however the flavour of black pepper takes some time to discern. The wine was very smooth, with an oakiness which comes from aging the wine in French oak, which adds a distinct complexity to the wine.
In a nutshell, the Classic Series Merlot 2015 is a well-rounded Merlot, beautifully fruity, with an acidity which tingles on the palate. I really enjoyed this wine – I kept it for one whole week before I finished it. I am surely going to look for another bottle. I was really taken aback with the price differential – you can get this wine for less than USD 10 in most Western countries, as compared to over USD 18 – 20 in Singapore. Well that has been my grouse for a long time as my blog readers know.
Have a great weekend.
5th August 2017
Recently I was wandering around the Dubai Airport Duty Free Shops, which remain as one of the more exclusive types of airport shopping around the world. Premium shopping, I should say, with an ambience which is yet to be beaten by other global airports. And, the number of people milling around these shops – well that is simply amazing. I cannot resist the comparison in my mind with Singapore Changi Airport, which has similar DFS shops, but more widespread around the airport terminals. I have seen a lot of people at the Changi Airport shopping areas, but have seen few people actually buying anything, except in Chocolates and Liquor sections. Most of the branded shops in Changi are at the very high end, with hardly any shoppers inside.
At Dubai DFS Shopping, almost everyone who walked in bought something, at least during the time I watched. Of course, prices do matter and Dubai is strictly tax free and it helps. Changi Airport DFS prices are not much different from what one would get in the city shops, especially for liquor; chocolate prices, are in fact, higher than what one could get at the Mustafas. Further, there were no overbearing sales people unleashed on shoppers at Dubai – they were around but kept a discrete distance unless there was a request. Even the chocolate varieties were better and different from Changi, so obviously I bought some chocolates.
Now, let me come to the Liquor section. Dubai DFS has an excellent collection of wines (though not large), and has a great selection of whiskies (reflecting the tastes of passengers passing through!). I saw some very good wines on offer at prices which you can never get in Singapore – whether at DFS or not. After some browsing around, I chanced upon one of my favourite wines of all time – the Montes Alpha from Chile. I had written about this winery in the past, and would recognize it instantaneously anywhere!
Well, let us look at what I bought: the Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2014 D.O. Aconcagua Coast, which is a great white with golden colour in an inviting bottle for USD 18.89 (SGD 26.06 at current exchange rate) which costs between SGD 44 and SGD 58 in Singapore via online ordering! At the high end of these prices, it is expensive by more than 100% compared to Dubai.
I also bought a red wine from Montes Alpha: the Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 D.O. Colchagua Valley, which is one of the best cabernets that I have ever tried, with deep red ruby colour and a fruity nose. Again, the pricing was exactly the same as above!
I love both these wines, they are creamy with a smooth finish and linger for quite some time. The effect is pleasing and wonderful. The Chardonnay is crisp and fruity, and the Cabernet is aromatic and complex. Amazing wines indeed.
Well, I can only envy the folks in Dubai. I will never get these kind of prices in Singapore. I will be very happy to get these wines at SGD 35, but I know it would not happen. So, let me grab such wines whenever I travel to airports like Dubai. That is the least I can do!
Enjoy your wines or drinks responsibly. Do not drink and drive. Do not drink beyond two glasses of wine or two small pegs of whiskey or any other hard liquor.
Cheers, and Have a wonderful weekend,
03 June 2017
Chateau St. Jean is not located in France. It is a piece of France located in Sonoma, California.
Chateau St. Jean has a long history of winemaking, and it was not surprising to see an excellent quality Merlot wine from them, though I have not heard about the winery previously.
Merlot is a dark blue-coloured grape variety which produces inky, purple-coloured wines which are fleshy and fruity. I pick up Merlot wines when I am tired of the stronger Cabernet Sauvignon wine types, and want to have a red wine with full-body impact while delivering the fruitiness associated with plum and blackberry. I also like the slight acidity of Merlot.
Chateau St. Jean Merlot 2013 was very good (for a moment I forgot it was from California – no slight here, but I felt it was an Australian or Chilean varietal). Its fruitiness combined with its long finish delivers an outstanding result, which would urge folks like me to pursue more of the same! The beautiful texture and the velvetiness of the wine amazed me. I pinched myself to feel the wine, praising my selection from ordinary wine shelves where the Australian, New Zealand, French and Chilean competition was rather severe.
I have always found Merlots to be easy to drink, and this one was not an exception. Easy on the palate, sweeter than Cabernet Sauvignon, and a bit more complex to decipher. And, the finish is always smooth with a Merlot.
I would recommend Chateau St. Jean Merlot anytime. While food pairing is suggested usually for Merlot, I enjoyed it on its own. Just let the wine breathe for some 15 minutes, and you are ready to go with the right kind of red wine glass – you can see the stickiness of this wine on the walls of the wine glass as you swirl the wine.
Please drink responsibly, and do not drink and drive. I know this advice is difficult to follow, but you should follow the rule for your own safety.
9th April 2017