Could’ve Been the Whiskey, Might Have Been the Wine

photo: Jeremy McKenzie from Villa Maria Estates, New Zealand.

Twelve years ago Ludo Ducrocq traded his French beret for a tam o’shanter when he became a tour guide at Glenfiddich Distillery Visitor Centre, in Dufftown, Scotland. Captivated by the heather and the barley, Ducrocq immersed himself, really getting to know malt-whisky—well beyond sipping the stuff—from coppersmithing (the stills) to cooperage (the barrels) to blending and distilling, and eventually garnering the title as “Global Ambassador” for William Grant & Sons Whiskey. Hearkening back more than 100 years, Grant’s remains a family-owned and operated distillery producing top-notch blended scotch from serious single malts that include Grant’s own Glenfiddiich and Balvenie. Ducrocq travels the world spreading the history and gospel of Grant’s.

New Zealander Jeremy McKenzie kicked a football around Dublin on a rugby scholarship before embarking on a love affair with wine and a post doctorate degree in Viticulture and Oenology. (Microbiology and Biochemistry were his undergraduate majors). He joined Villa Maria in 2006 after stints in Europe, including one at Chassagne Montrachet. Jeremy holds the post of senior winemaker at VM’s Marlborough facility.

A couple of weeks back PMA (Peter Mielzynski Agency), a major Canadian importer of wine, beer and spirits brought to town both fellows for two separate events.

On a sunny Tuesday Trevor Kallies, food and beverage director for Donnelly Pub Group gathered together selected media at Cinema Public House in honour of Ducroq’s visit.

The affable Ducrocq led us through three whiskeys (fruity Grant’s Family Reserve—their bread and butter Scotch, clean and creamy Ale Cask Reserve, and rich, mellow Sherry Cask Reserve while teaching us the fine art of tasting. (Adding a few drams water will bring forth the whiskey’s various esters). Meanwhile Kallies busied himself behind the bar orchestrating a ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ of strawberry infused Grant’s Sherry Cask, Fernet Branca, honey syrup and a dash of Angostura aromatic bitters. Part martini, part Manhattan the smoky cocktail is featured at Cinema Public House until the end of July.

For more information on Grant’s, visit

A couple of days on, Jeremy McKenzie stopped by on his North American mission. The tan, fit winemaker (clearly he is still kicking the ball around) zoomed in on three wines from the Villa Maria portfolio–Riesling 2008, Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and Pinot Noir 2007, over an Asian inspired lunch at Oru in Fairmont Pacific Rim while we wine and food types zeroed in the wines’ affinity for sweet-and-salt flavours. Though intended for a heart of palm salad the intense stone apple/peach/lime flavours and zesty finish of the Villa Maria Riesling partnered perfectly with rich ginger nuanced sablefish, while cutting through the salt and fat of a miso butter sauce. On the other hand the herb and gooseberry notes in the youthful, exuberant Sauvignon Blanc, aimed for the fish, fared better with hearts of palm spiked with grapefruit, coconut and cilantro. The Pinot Noir proved a perfect match for crispy duck thigh–its cherry/spice/earth and fine-grain tannins riffing on the sweet briny wakame (seaweed) pea-shoots and the bird’s juicy flesh. Villa Maria Wines balance Asian-inspired dishes beautifully—light enough to avoid overwhelming delicate flavours, complex, and with just the right weight to flatter them.

Villa Maria Riesling (went well with all three dishes) $16.99 LDB

Sauvignon Blanc $18.99 (LDB)

Pinot Noir Private Bin $24.99 (LDB)

For more info on wines, visit For info where to buy elsewhere in Canada  visit Peter Mielzynski at

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