Small Comforts

Wine under $30, learning to love your slow cooker, and a truly warming coffee.

Credit: BCBusiness

The Hoggan Taste Test

The Challenge: To find a wine under $30 that you could take to a house party (or serve to a crowd) without offending the guests or your palate.
The Sommelier: Igal Amsallem (, whom I asked to recommend some bottles, all available at Liberty Wine Merchants.
The Panel: Hoggan & Associates staffers vice-president Karen Cook, account manager Alex Chapple, executive assistant Kirsten Brynelsen, accountant Cheryl Tauber, receptionist Clarissa Bouchard and account manager Pinder Rehal. None generally pays more than $20 for wine, and none has ever spent more than $35. Aside from a Hoggan “tasting” most Fridays, with a red and a white from my own collection, none claims a trained palate (although one – not to be named – admits to having picked up the sommelier from a fine restaurant while on a “girls weekend” in Napa).

The Nominees:

  • Ogopogo’s Lair Pinot Grigio, 2007 (Ganton & Larson Prospect Winery, Okanagan Valley, $15.99 – pictured left)
  • Campogrande Orvieto Classico, 2007 (Santa Cristina, Italy, $15.99)
  • Ehrenfelser, 2007 (Gray Monk, Okanagan Valley, $17.99)
  • Firestick Chardonnay, 2005 (Poole’s Rock Wines, southeast Australia, $19.99)
  • Mystic River Chardonnay, 2005 (Wild Goose Vineyards, Okanagan Valley, $19.99)
  • Les Charmes, 2006 (Macon – Cave de Lugny, Vin de Bourgogne, France, $27.99)

The Verdict: Sadly, the Les Charmes (the best-selling white burgundy in the U.S.) was dismissed as a bad bottle (“It smells like gym socks.” / “Did you say ‘Jim’s socks’?” / “No, g-y-m socks!”). The Firestick was too “rough,” “flinty” and acidic, and the Campogrande was dropped for its aftertaste. Everyone liked Ganton and Larson’s “passion-fruity” Pinot Grigio and the “lighter, even fruitier” Mystic River Chardonnay.
Best buy: The “smooth,” “really spicy” Ehrenfelser.
Bottom Line: There are bad wines, but you could do much worse than these.


Skip the tacky green beers this St. Paddy’s Day and go for a real Irish coffee at Vancouver institution the Irish Heather. The Heather’s iconic drink features freshly brewed coffee, a heaping spoon of brown sugar and an ounce of Jameson’s or Bushmills whiskey, all carefully layered with a half inch of thick, fresh cream poured over the back of a heated spoon. Proprietor Sean Heather says real fresh cream determines an Irish coffee’s authenticity; “When properly made, you get the coolness of the cream, followed by the warmth of the coffee and then the steeliness of the whiskey.” $7, the Irish Heather GastroPub,

Slow Mo
With everyone paring back on dining out, the simple, practical and economical slow cooker is growing in popularity. A noteworthy addition to the market is Cuisinart’s four-quart cooking pot. Meals can be set to cook at high, low or simmer and then remain at a warm setting for up to eight hours. Housed in a brushed stainless-steel body, the ceramic cooker is dishwasher safe and can double as a serving dish. It’s also equipped with a chrome-plated steaming rack, which easily accommodates ramekins or small pans for desserts. Cuisinart 4-quart Programmable Slow Cooker, $89.99,