Thursday, December 2, 2010

China Sichuan

I had another wonderful evening recently at my favourite Chinese Restaurant - China Sichuan. This is quite simply one of the best places around Dublin for great Chinese food and if you haven’t been I heartily recommend it. Great food, quality wines and friendly and efficient service.

I’ve been going to China Sichuan for a few years now and happily followed the guys and their smashing food, from their original base in Stillorgan to their new, modern and stylish restaurant down in Sandyford.

Most times when I go, I end up ordering my favourite spicy dumplings dish for starters - "Hon Yu Guozi"-Poached dumplings, in a hot & spicy red oil broth. They’re really good and so tasty I find it almost impossible to resist ordering them!

One of my favourite mains is "Haozan" Rib Eye Beef-tender pieces of mature rib eye, pan fried in Sichuan pepper sauce, with garlic shoots. Other dishes I’ve enjoyed include their sea bass and tea-smoked duck which are both excellent.

A recent wine discovery in the restaurant was that good Pinot Noir matches very well with Chinese beef dishes. They had a lovely Burgundy (available by the glass!) which went very well with my rib-eye beef dish.

On the dessert front, I thought you couldn’t beat their Banana fritters until I tried the caramelised Apple fritters which the waiter serves up to you hot,fresh and syrupy at your table. I’m not sure if its always on the menu but snap it up if you see it. Great stuff altogether!

For more details check out or phone 01- 2935100

Friday, November 5, 2010

Five Years Trading in Sandyford!

We're celebrating five years trading in Sandyford Village!

We’ve sniffed, slurped and tasted a fair number of wines over the past five years
in search of true wine “nectar”(I did a rough calculation and I frightened myself
with a "wines tasted" figure of approx 2000 wines..)

A selection of random highlights..

- Being interviewed by Eddie Hobbs about “wines for investment” on the TV

- Getting our fourth Bridgestone Guide plaque in a row in 2010

- Having a “Sideways” inspired California tasting where we had a “Merlot ban”
and a “shrine to Pinot Noir”

- Getting up early on Wednesdays for a year (Ouch!) to present the weekly WineSpot on Country Mix 106.8fm

- Our Millbrook Wine Dinner in Ballyknocken House and Cookery School (with Celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio)

- Hearing some amazing customer feedback on the Sokol Blosser Oregon Pinot Noir!

- Welcoming various winemakers from Barossa Valley, Minervois, South Africa the shop, in particular cult winemaker Troy Kalleske of Kalleske wines

- Landing wine from Georgia in the shop! I imagine it’s a long old
spin from Georgia to Sandyford Village!

- Wine trips to Portugal, The Rhone Valley, The Languedoc, Hungary,
Priorat and Tuscany in search of vinous treasure

- Our Icon Wine Tasting where we tasted Barolo, Meursault, Cloudy Bay,
Chateau Musar and some other wine “big names”

All of this would have been impossible without the support of our customers,
so I’d very much like to say a massive “Thank You!” to everybody for helping us along the way…

Here’s looking forward to the next five!

Hopefully we have plenty of fun “winetimes” ahead…

Yours in Wine,

John McGrath

Nectar Wines
Sandyford Village
ph 01 2944067

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wine Club Tasting “New World Wines” Fri 24th Sept 2010

We were joined by Canadian Wine Guru, Colin Egan for our latest wine club tasting and Colin led us on a merry little trip around some tasty wines of the New World.

We covered Chile, New Zealand and Australian wines and the line-up was as follows:

Casa Patronales Chardonnay 2009 RRP 8.95
Dry River Pinot Grigio 2009 RRP 9.95
Mirror Lake (Marlborough) Sauvignon Blanc 2009 RRP 12.95
Casa Patronales Chardonnay Reserva Privada 2007 RRP 15.95

Casa Patronales Carmenere Reserva 2008 RRP 11.95
Dry River Shiraz 2009 RRP 9.95
Casa Patronales Carmenere Reserva Privada 2007 RRP 15.95

Colin and myself bravely fought the “battle for Chardonnay” but we were forced to admit defeat when faced with the undeniable success of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Interesting to taste an Aussie Pinot Grigio!
On the reds the Carmenere Reserva was the clear winner and indeed it gives great “ bang for your buck”,it’s a lovely complex red for the price!

Thanks to Colin for guiding us, looking forward to the next tasting around Halloween.

To join in the tasting fun please send an email to:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hungarian Wine

This new white wine arrived last week and it’s a real beauty.

Chateau Dereszla Tokaji (Dry) 2009 RRP 13.95
From the Tokaji region in Hungary, where they make the world-famous sweet and luscious dessert wines Tokaji Aszu, this wine is a Tokaji alright, but in a dry and crisp style. This is my kind of white wine, absolutely loaded with tasty flavour and aromas and a fair bit of kick (it clocks in at 14% alcohol, which is higher than usual for white wine.) It has a lovely quirky mineral twist which you generally find in more serious wines (like Chablis for example) and at 13.95 a bottle I reckon it’s a bit of a steal.

We also stock the Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszu 5 puttonyos 2003 RRP 29.95 which is a really special sweet wine.

Tokaji is called Wine of Kings, King of Wines and you’ll often see the Latin term “Vinum Regum Rex Vinorum” on bottles of Tokaji Aszu, the sweet wine. Apparently Louis XV of France gave the wine this title (serving it up to impress Madame de Pompadour..good man Louis!!) and that will give you some idea of the historical context of the wine.

Hungary has a strong and proud winemaking tradition going back centuries and their winemakers are starting to make an international impact again with their super wines (after years of struggle and slumber under the Communist regime) Decanter magazine, the famous UK wine publication has a dedicated Hungarian edition! Watch this space..

Friday, August 20, 2010

1001 wines you must try..

I got this book at Christmas “1001 wines you must try before you die” and it’s a really great book for any wine nut. It sets you dreaming and hallucinating about all of the wondrous wines and special vintages out there in the wineworld.
It gave me the idea to set up a little wine club for our customers called “The 1001 club”
Every so often I would source and select a “special wine” for the members to try. Rare wines, limited edition wines, old vintages, off the radar beauties, downright funky wines etc.. no set rules really, just a search for vinous treasure.

These were the first three wines we tried in our pursuit of wine happiness

Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2006 (Oregon)
A sensational Pinot for the “Sideways” fans..

Mas de Libian “La Calade” 2006
An “old-vine” Mourvedre from an excellent, organic Cotes du Rhone producer, big bold and beautiful.

Jean Claude Bessin Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2005 “La piece au Comte”
A tight, mineral beast of a white from a tiny plot of vines in the famous Fourchaume vineyards.

Its been great fun selecting the wines (and trying them!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

An interesting twist on Pinot Grigio

An interesting twist on Pinot Grigio

Masi are recognised leaders in Amarone production.
I should say..I was in some lovely wine shops and restaurants in Venice last week and the Masi wines were very much in evidence, all over the place.

A few years ago the winery got the idea to use the Amarone “appassimento” method (drying grapes) on white grapes to make a white wine! The result is a fascinating little wine called Masianco.

Masianco 2009 is a blend of about 75 percent pinot grigio and 25 percent of a local grape called verduzzo. The pinot grigio is crushed and fermented as usual (when it's harvested) to retain freshness, but the verduzzo is picked later in the season, when it's fully ripe, and then put on racks to dry for about three weeks. The verduzzo is then fermented and the two wines are blended.

Pinot Grigio for all its popularity, is in the main hard to get excited about. Most of the cheap stuff is thin, watery, lacking flavour, body and alcohol but sells by the shedload! One of life’s little mysteries I guess.

The best Pinot Grigios I’ve tried come from Friuli or Oltrepo Pavese (in Lombardy), generally from the hilly terrain where it’s a bit cooler and where the exposure to sun is more favourable.

Anyway back to the Masianco. Simply put its fresh, rich and damn tasty.
I have to say I got a great kick out of this wine.
It tastes like a fresh juicy lemon, with tropical fruit twists and the slightest hint of coconut and vanilla. I had it with some spicy Indian dishes and it stood up really well.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

WineClub Tasting New Spanish & Italian Wines

Thanks to everyone who attended our WineClub tasting last Friday.Our guest wine importer Colm Carter wowed us considerably with six new wines from Spain and Italy.

Dominio de la Vega Cava RRP 18.95
Montalto Cataratto 2009 (Sicily) RRP 12.95
Montalto Nero d’Avola 2009 (Sicily) RRP 12.95
Masciarelli Montepulciano 2007 (Abruzzo) RRP 14.95
Aga Roble 2008 (Navarra) RRP 12.95
Castillo de Jumilla Monastrell 2008 (Jumilla) RRP 12.95

The Cava went down very well indeed..reminded me that a good Cava really is much more like a decent Champagne than a Prosecco in style.
On the reds I loved the Masciarelli, I think this is a really fine dinner wine.
The Monastrell had plenty of fans too..a big bruiser of a red oozing flavour and packing a punch at 14%..

Another fun and interesting tasting..we’ll have another one next month..
To join our WineClub and the tasting fun just send me an email

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wines of the Year Tasting

Wines of the Year Tasting

We asked our customers to pick out their favourite reds and whites of the last 12 months. We counted up the votes and set up a tasting based on a shortlist of six wines, their top three reds and whites.
We also put the wines on promotion to encourage other customers to try them, to “spread the good wine news” as it were.

Top 3 Reds

Schutz Barossa “Red Nectar” Shiraz 2006 (Barossa Valley) RRP 25.95
A beautiful full-throttle Barossa Shiraz made by top winemaker Troy Kalleske at his cousin Tammy Schutz’ winery Red Nectar. A cracking wine that is very nectar indeed! That’s Troy in the picture..check out for more details.

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 (Italy) RRP 15.95
Our best-selling Italian red by a country mile, called Twiggy for short (because of the vine “twig” on the bottle..) A great all-rounder.

Domaine Aimé Minervois 2006 (Languedoc) RRP 13.95
A wine made by Remi Bonnet at his family vineyards in the Minervois (not far from Carcassonne in the Languedoc) A blend of mostly Grenache and Syrah, the wine is named after Remi’s winemaking hero his Grandfather Aimé. A smooth, supple easygoing drop.

Top 3 Whites

Huia Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Marlborough) RRP 15.95
The hype surrounding Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc continues and this is a lovely one in a more subtle style than most. Not as “in your face” with the gooseberry attack that many show, this wine opens up beautifully as you work your way into the bottle. Very refreshing.

Domaine Les Bruyeres Crozes Hermitage 2006 (Rhone Valley) RRP 22.95
A big golden-coloured white that almost appears a bit sweet when you first taste it. Made from typical Rhone white grapes that see plenty of sunshine for ripeness, this complex wine is superb with roast chicken and pasta in cream sauce.

Domaine Raimbault Sancerre 2006 RRP 18.95 (Loire Valley)
Benchmark Loire Valley Sauvignon from a good family producer.More subtle and food-friendly than the New Zealand version. Sancerre is the spiritual home of this popular grape variety and this is an excellent example.

One of our best attended tastings and a really excellent line-up of tasty and interesting wines. Roll on the next one!

To join in the fun with our regular wine events and tastings, just email

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Country Mix 106.8fm Winespot Italian Wines 3rd February 2010

With Ireland v Italy in the rugby coming up this weekend, I thought we’d take a look at a couple of Italian wines. To try and create a little bit of “La Dolce Vita” in the Country Mix studio, I also brought some crunchy amaretti biscuits to try with the wines.

Zenato Lugana 2008 RRP 14.95
A wine from the shores of Lake Garda that I’m very fond of. It’s a lovely, dry mellow white, with hints of peach and apricot and a nice mineral twist. To me it has more to offer in terms of flavour and character than most Pinot Grigios. The Zenato family also make an excellent range of reds. Keep an eye out for their Valpolicella, Ripassa and Amarone. We’ve been following the wines for a number of vintages now and they are always good to excellent. We tried the Lugana with the crunchy amaretti and the combination wasn’t bad at all. Lynsey Dolan, the presenter of Dublin’s Talking, was heard to “OOH” and “AAH” and that’s generally a good sign! Amaretti can also be served with good coffee or broken up over quality ice-cream.They’re my current addiction!

Cantina Zaccagnini “Twiggy” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007 RRP 15.95
A wine affectionately called “Twiggy” by our customers (because of the vine “twig” hanging off the label) this spicy beauty comes from the Abruzzo region, east of Rome.
Quite dry (a typical Italian red quality..) this is certainly a food wine and calls for good pasta, cheese or cured meats (or ideally all three together..) Its one of our bestselling Italian reds and its appeal is clear to see. It delivers lovely Italian quaffability and slips down nice n’easy! According to the winery website the wine sees four months ageing in oak, but any oak influence is soft and smooth and the fruit and spice shines through nicely.

An interesting little Come on Ireland!!

You can listen to my weekly winespot on “Dublins Talking” every Wednesday morning at 10.30am on Country Mix Radio 106.8fm.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Country Mix 106.8fm Winespot Wines from Alsace 18th November 2009

We were on a French theme this week and we tasted some whites from Alsace.
This is mainly white wine territory, because of its northerly location, near the border with Germany. There is a Germanic influence here for sure with the tall Alsace flute style bottle and the classic old-style labels. It’s a region with a really interesting history where the territory changed from French to German control and vice-versa several times over. As such the wines are an interesting hybrid of French and German influence and have lots of style and interesting character to offer. I’m a big fan and generally think the wines are fab, but I have to admit I don’t drink them often enough. I’m too much of a red wine slave I guess.

Dietrich Gewurztraminer 2006 RRP 14.95
I love this style of wine and interestingly it’s a white wine made from red grapes!
Its from a wine co-operative, the Caves Dietrich, which produces good quality wines at fair prices. It has a lovely, intense golden colour and a really particular spicy aromatic nose which is pretty unmistakable (once you’ve tasted a few Gewurztraminer.)
A lot of people run the other way when faced with “Gewurz” as it’s so different to the zippy dry wine styles that are so popular at present. To me that’s completely missing the point and Gewurztraminer wines are truly “Alsace” in style. Great to drink on their own, wonderful in partnership with cheese and dishes from the local region and super with spicy Thai or Chinese dishes. I urge you to open your mind and give “Gewurz” a go!

Meyer Fonné Pinot Gris 2007 RRP 18.95
This is the same grape as the ever-popular Pinot Grigio but the Alsace style is quite a bit richer and more flavoursome. Meyer Fonné is a small family-run winery with a really excellent range of wines (we stock five in our shop) You’ll see the wines pop up in restaurants quite a bit, as sommeliers have long since recognised them as serious producers. Yellow gold in colour with a fresh slightly sweet nose of honey, apricots and smoke, this wine works a dream with chicken, pork and creamy pasta dishes.

You can listen to my weekly winespot every Wednesday morning at 10.30am on Country Mix 106.8fm.

Country Mix 106.8fm Winespot Wines of Beaujolais 11th November 2009

In preparation for the launch of the Beaujolais Nouveau 2009 (on the third Thursday of November) I thought we’d take a look at some wines from this pretty wine region in France.

Three generations of the Lardy family (thats Monsieur Lardy in the photo) have been making these wines from the Gamay grape (which all Beaujolais red is made from)

Domaine Lardy Beaujolais Villages 2007 RRP 13.95
A tasty, light, fruity wine packed with all the typical Beaujolais summer fruit aromas and flavours. Very easy to drink, this is a good wine to introduce to people who are new to red wine. Its nice and soft, there are no hard oaky, tannic flavours and you can drink the wine on its own or with food, its quite versatile. It has a bit more about it than Beaujolais Nouveau in terms of body and character. The Nouveau wine is a fruit-packed quaffer for immediate drinking and pleasure.Its a wine that’s all about fun, fun, fun..

Domaine Lardy Fleurie 2006 RRP 16.95
This wine is extremely popular in Ireland. Firstly, because of its easy name, which reminds people of flowers and then because of its easy-to-enjoy soft and fruity character.
It also appears on pretty much every restaurant winelist in the land (along with Chablis, Sancerre and other French classics) Fleurie is a village in the Beaujolais region and a very quaint, quiet place it is too. I had a tasty lunch in the village square some years ago on a wine trip. On that same trip I got to taste a wonderful ten year old “Old Vine” Fleurie (yes you can keep a good vintage for quite some time.) It reminded me very much of a fine Burgundy in style which was surprising. Anyway this Lardy Fleurie is a very good benchmark drop and is one for drinking young. Do keep an eye out for the Lardy “Old Vine” Fleurie version, it’s a much more complex wine, one of the best on the Irish market.

You can listen to my weekly winespot every Wednesday morning at 10.30am on Country Mix 106.8fm.