Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 25 Wines of 2014

The format for our Top 25 list uses a subjective approach taking into account availability, collectability and relevance in the world of wine. For simply the highest rated wines of the year please visit our Top 25 Rated Wines of 2014 list on All wines were released within the calendar year and reviews based solely on barrel samples were excluded.

#1 - Icon Wine of the Year
Painted Rock Estate Winery 2012 Red Icon - $55
Though the components change year-to-year, Painted Rock's Red Icon is an exceptionally consistent, high-end blend that successfully executes its but de vie to deliver complex, New World flavours wrapped in an elegant, Old World structure.
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Château de Beaucastel 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape - $92
Perhaps lacking in the power department when compared to the opulent and dense 2010, the 2011 thrives on subtle layers of sweet red and dark fruit, dry rock, fragrant flowers, warm garrique and smooth tobacco aromas and flavours.
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LaStella 2011 Maestoso "Solo" Merlot - $100
Supremely elegant and nuanced, LaStella's flagship wine, Maestoso, proves that 100% Merlot wines can be just as memorable and complete as equally priced Cabernet Sauvignon when handled with as much care and detailed attention that the Osoyoos Lake winery applies to this beautiful wine.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2013 Chardonnay - $30
My favourite words for the Painted Rock Chardonnay are "consistency", "pure" and "effortless". And its the last word of the bar-setting trio that makes this wine such a stand out. The nose is generous with layers of pure fruit (orchard, citrus, tropical) supported by French oak, minerals and light brioche aromas, but it is the effortless palate that is most memorable. 
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Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2008 CastelGiocondo - $55
A warm, sweet scented, perfumed nose with berry, prune and spice notes. The palate is both silky and powerful with fantastic balance of fruit, herb, savoury and spice characters. Tannins are fine and dusty. The finish is long and memorable.
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LaStella 2011 La Sophia - $85
This is near, pitch-perfect, cool-climate Cabernet with a lovely balance between its concentrated, dark berry fruit and its complex, vegetal'n'herbs components. The feminine palate is smooth with fine, ripe tannins and hints of graphite, vanilla, coffee grinds and cherry-cola. Herbs and cassis purée linger on the long, long, smoky finish. Will evolve over a decade-plus.
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Marchesi Antinori 2010 Villa Antinori - $25
This blend of 55% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah from Italy's famed Marchesi Antinori is a seductive, over-achiever that effortlessly blends, plump, red and blue fruit with sweet herbs and dusty, savoury flavours of cured meats, cocoa powder and leather. oak influence is generous, but well integrated, contributing to the fine, supple tannins and smooth palate.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2012 Syrah  - $40
Aromas of smoke, cured meats, white pepper and minerals may make you think first of the Northern Rhone, but really, this is pure Okanagan and one of the valley's best examples of how Syrah can thrive in BC when planted in the right areas and handled with tough love, as they do at Painted Rock Estate Winery.
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Paul Hobbs Winery 2011 Katherine Lindsay Estate Pinot Noir - $80
A big Pinot at a big price for folks looking for mannered intensity wrapped in an elegant veil of dark fruit and sweet forrest floor aromas. Medium purple hued Pinot with a silky textured palate bursting with ripe dark cherry and black currant fruit balanced by meaty-earthy notes, all-the-while remaining Pinot-esk, though, only barely.
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JoieFarm 2013 A Noble Blend - $24
Tropical, citrus and pear fruit hit you first in the form of vibrant aromas and intensely sweet flavours. Then, the wine's secondary and tertiary layers appear as waves of crisp acidity and lingering spice; adding balance and complexity. This wine is a joy to drink.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2012 Merlot - $40
Not so much as improves on the outstanding 2011vintage, but rather, dials up the intensity of certain elements, like the robust tannins and dense blackberry purée on the nose and palate, thanks to the hotter growing season which delivered more sun and heat units for the vineyard team to work with.
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LaStella 2012 Fortissimo - $35
The palate offers good continuity from the nose and showcases flavours and structural elements from each of the blended components: 39% Merlot (juicy, mixed-berry fruit, alcohol viscosity), 38% Cabernet Franc (plum, vegetal, rustic tannins, texture), 17% Cabernet Sauvignon (dark berry notes, extra tannins) and 6% Sangiovese (savoury, huckleberry acidity).
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Le Vieux Pin 2012 Ava - $35
The enchanting, Rhone-inspired "Ava" combines 61% Viognier, 21% Roussanne and 18% Marsanne into a deliciously rich and creamy textured wine that blends tropical and melon fruit with mineral and exotic nut aromas and flavours to create a layered, sensual wine that will stand on its own or pair with Poulet de Bresse-esque dishes.

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery 2011 Meritage - $45
A dense, masculine blend of Bordeaux varieties that opens with a complex nose of cool blackberry, wild red currant, menthol, black cherry, coffee grinds, cardamom and baking spice aromas. The medium-plus bodied palate is loaded with brooding, dark fruit and toasted oak flavours, with light, savoury notes adding depth.
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Upper Bench Estate Winery 2012 Merlot - $29
The nose opens up to reveal sweet-scented, floral and vanilla-oak notes above the layers of dark berry and cherry fruit. Delightful. The palate is full of texture, restraint and fine tannins with dense dark fruit flavours complimented by oak, mocha and mineral notes. The finish is long and balanced.
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Chateau Des Charmes 2013 Vidal Icewine - $26 (200ml)
This beautifully constructed, dense Vidal ice wine smells and tastes of a bowl of apricot and honeydew-infused custard adorned with shavings of candied lime peel. The unctuous, honeyed fruit is balanced nicely with lemon/lime acidity through to an everlasting finish.
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MacRostie Winery and Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir - $35
This blended, entry-level Pinot Noir does the Sonoma Coast proud showcasing the sub-region's delicate, low-key approach to Pinot Noir that makes the Sonoma Coast stand-out from the richer, meatier Pinots from the inland AVAs like Russian River Valley.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2011 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red - $30
An always pleasing blend of Bordeaux varietals with the new edition consisting of 39% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot, delivering the winery's signature sweet tobacco and blackberry aromas complimented by lifted floral and light spice notes on the nose.
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Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars 2013 Sauvignon Blanc - $19
Elegant and layered, this is a Loire Valley-styled Sauvignon Blanc with a kiss of subtle oak, whose but de la vie is to deliver scrumptious, mineral-infused, citrus fruit aromas and flavours via its engaging nose and refined, balanced palate. Mouth-watering and refreshing minus any hard edges or crowd-dividing pungency.
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Fort Berens Estate Winery 2013 Riesling - $18
Most impressive. Subtle, at first, especially if served too cold. Awakens after a breather in the glass and a chance to warm-up to room temperature, revealing a hidden opulence of warm, inviting orchard fruit aromas and cool, mineral and green apple peel notes. The palate offers off-dry levels of residual sugar (13g/l), yet, finishes almost dry thanks to equal counterbalance of green apple and citrus acidity.
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Quails' Gate Estate Winery 2012 Old Vines Foch Reserve - $40
With a wine made from fruit harvested from 48 year old Marechal Foch vines, you might expect a unique, even exotic experience, and here, Quails' Gate delivers, yet, it's a familiar  uniqueness. Think BC Cabernet Franc mixed with the ambiance of a camp site (smoke, singed wood, BBQ meats, mulled wine, burnt marshmallowsthe works).
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River Stone Estate Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc - $26
Consistent and unheralded, the River Stone Cabernet Franc is a must-try for all Franc-ophiles who love how the Bordeaux varietal successfully transmits the unique terroir of the southern Okanagan Valley.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2011 Oldfield Series Merlot - $30
Quaff the nose for hours while the wine opens in your glass to reveal a well-structured, dry palate of fine tannins, wild berry acidity and flavours of blue fruit, cherry-cola and spices. Ready to go now, though, will hold for many years in your cellar with some further development.
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JoieFarm 2012 Pinot Noir - $23
Excellent continuity carries through from the nose to the dry, medium-plus bodied palate where the trio of red fruit, spice and earthy flavours shine. Tannins are mild, yet refined and structure the palate nicely while wild berry acidity keeps the finish refreshing and your mouth salivating for more.
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Church and State Wines 2012 Gravelbourg Chardonnay - $27
Church and State's Gravelbourg Chardonnay is an exploration of texture and of the masculine qualities of the Burgundian grape, with the former enhanced from extended lees contact during élevage, adding fullness to the mouth feel and imparting brioche aromas and flavours.
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- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

2014 Icon Wine of the Year

Painted Rock's Red Icon has long been a yearly entrant in the top 5 of our Top 25 Icon Wines of the Year, but for 2014, we had to award this fabulous blend the top spot. Though the tasting score equals previous vintages, there's just something about the 2012 Red Icon that stays with you, even months later and proves it's worthy to be this year's Icon Wine of the Year:

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2012 Red Icon
31% Malbec blended with 28% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc and 15% Petit Verdot
$55 - 14.9%
93+pts - Full Review

Congratulations to our runner-ups for this year's Icon Wine of the Year award: the 2011 Château de Beaucastel and the supremely elegant LaStella 2011 Maestoso "Solo" Merlot.

The Wine
Though the components change year-to-year, Painted Rock's Red Icon is an exceptionally consistent, high-end blend that successfully executes its but de vie to deliver complex, New World flavours wrapped in an elegant, Old World structure.

This BC Icon offers a gorgeous, feminine nose of spiced plum, sweet red fruit, light vanilla-mocha and floral aromas. The understated, refined, palate follows with both dark and red fruit flavours creating the perception of sweetness upon entry, supported by silky-smooth tannins, rich savoury notes and effortless acidity through the very long, dry and balanced finish.

The Story
We love this wine for its uniqueness in the world of cookie-cutter big reds. The first vintage (2007) had Petit Verdot as the leading grape in the blend... yeah, Petit Verdot! None of the corporate wineries would ever try that. (And to be fair, I doubt proprietor John Skinner would ever again either... the bane of originality.) These bold risks combined with continual refinement of the winery's detailed vineyard management practices, pruning and harvesting programs have paid off delivering a unique blend from a picture perfect vineyard offering honest vintage variation. 

There's every reason to expect to see future vintages of the Red Icon in our top 5 for years to come as the Painted Rock team have committed to producing a flagship product for the BC wine industry. Lofty goals, but ones the team has thus far been able to deliver.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monthly Picks: December '14 - Happy Holidays

Stock your cellar with red blen-nds. 
Fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
'Tis the season for great frien-nds. 
Fa-la-la-la-la la la la la. 
Drink us now our Meritage? 
Fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
BC's Best! (So I allege.) 
Fa-la-la-la-la la la la la. 

Merry Meritage everyone and to everyone a happy new blend!

Calliope Wines 2012 Figure Eight Red - 416
Juicy, friendly and well balanced, the Calliope Figure Eight makes a nice, straight-forward, entry-level, red blend of 54% Merlot, 34% Syrah and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, delivering ripe plum and sweet tobacco aromas on the aromatic nose and a variety of red fruit flavours on the front-loaded palate.
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La Frenz Winery 2012 Montage - $22
La Frenz's middleweight red blend combines Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir to produce a red fruit and oak'n'spice infused wine ideal for early consumption over the next 1-2 years. Buy it by the case and make it your house red to the delight of all your guests.
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Maverick Estate Winery 2012 Rubicon - $25
This medium-bodied, spicy, herbal wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon all sourced from the Golden Mile Bench in the Southern Okanagan Valley. Deep ruby-purple in colour, the Rubicon is a mild-mannered, feminine expression of Syrah with enhanced aromatics from the Cabernet Franc and an easy-going tannic backbone from the Cabernet Sauvignon.
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River Stone Estate Winery 2011 Corner Stone - $29
blend of 53% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Malbec which opens with lovely, deep aromas of blueberry, blackberry and cherry fruit with light, smoky, charred-oak notes and hints of dried herbs on the nose.
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Gold Hill Winery 2012 Family Reserve Meritage - $35
A nice entry into the popular 'big-blend' category for the Golden Mile-based winery from the Southern Okanagan. A sweetly scented, feminine nose billows from the glass with engaging, blackberry, cassis, raspberry seeds, pine needles, sweet pipe tobacco, vanilla-mocha and French oak aromas.
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LaStella 2012 Fortissimo - $35
I never like to quote a winery's marketing material, but Fortissimo's tag line "Old world meets the New World" is hard to beat. The wine is equal parts, ripe, BC Meritage and savoury, traditional Chianti. When combined, the result is an Okanagan version of a modern, 'Super-Tuscan'.
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Burrowing Owl Estate Winery 2011 Athene - $38
This lovely Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon melange (55-45, respectively) successfully combines the classic characteristics of both varieties, producing a nose that pairs pepper with cassis and cherry-cola with dusty sagebrush while warm, toasted oak and light floral aromas add a touch of sweet femininity.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2014