Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Featured Wines: The Italian Argument

If the wine in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email (JCarrier@everythingwine.ca) or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's newest location River District in South Vancouver (8570 River District Crossing).



The Italian Argument


My friend (and wine importer) Massimo is so Italian, I sometimes feel like asking him to tone it down a bit. When he does Vintage Room tastings, he dons his baby-blue velour blazer, unfurls the red-and-white checkered tablecloth, and puts out the bread, the cheese, and the salami that he drove to East Van to buy (“always so bad the traffic, Jordan”). He knows the families behind each of the wines that he pours, and purrs out the hyper-syllabic place names like arpeggios; he is simultaneously 100% legit and one step away from hopping onto a turtle shell to go save the princess. Sometimes when he’s pouring I step back, out of the Vintage Room, to observe the people he’s serving to see if they get the same –

“Hello, Jordan.” It came from behind me, a familiar voice with an accent that was similar to Massimo’s, if somewhat time-worn. It was Vito.

Vito is, well, the other Italian importer that I buy a lot of wine from (and who also does tastings with cheese and bread and tablecloths – it’s like the Aloha of Italy, I guess). In fact, I’ve been buying from Vito since long before there I knew there were Massimos (Vito has been in Canada a lot longer), and maybe that explains my sheepish expression when I turned around to face him. Despite the fact that I support both of these importers equally and despite the fact that – last time I checked – I’m a grown man, I felt guilty, like I got caught cheating on Vito with Massimo. After I made small talk with Vito for a couple minutes, he announced that he was going to go say hi to Massimo, and I promptly ran away, just as a grown man would do.

As I pretended to do important things in the rest of the store, I talked myself down. You have Vito pouring in the Vintage Room all the time, I told me. Vito’s been here a long time, probably doesn’t even have a temper anymore, I continued. You’re 43 years old and you can buy wine from whomever, it’s all good, you’re such a professional, I said. It was working. I felt better. My friend Rick was standing at the tasting bar looking into the Vintage Room and beckoned me over, “you’ve got to see this”, he said. My anxieties returned like booming car stereos.

It looked initially like they were trying to swat many flies away from each other’s heads. Vito and Massimo were gesticulating wildly at one another, raising and lowering their pitches accordingly. I don’t know what they were arguing about (I no habla Italian) but I got the sickening feeling that I’d put a Japanese Fighting Fish in the same tank as another Japanese Fighting Fish. I had to do something before it came to blows, so – like a grownup – I ran away further into the back.

After dusting the same bottle for 10 minutes I figured the coast was clear, and emerged cautiously from the back and went into the Vintage Room where Massimo was pleasantly whistling. Vito was gone. “What was that about?” I asked Massimo, who blinked at me for a beat before asking “what you mean, Jordan?” “I mean, what were you and Vito talking about?” I clarified. Massimo blinked at the table, then the ground, then his own hand, “I think the weather?” he shrugged. After I pushed a little further, Massimo divulged, with a puzzled look, that they’d maybe discussed soccer a bit. They weren’t fighting, they weren’t even disagreeing, that is just how a couple of Italian guys talk to each other.

That kind of passion pervades every Italian conversation, but it can be weaponized when applied to things that really matter, like wine. Throughout most Italian wine regions, the predominant argument is between those winemakers (and wine drinkers) who adhere to styles and practices handed down to them over centuries, and the restless types who want to use the best techniques from around the world in their own back yard. Between the Traditionalists and the Modernists.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fairview Cellars 2017 Releases


A recent trip to the Okanagan took me through Oliver where I had the pleasure of sampling the wines of Fairview Cellars. Nearly gone, new and soon-to-be released stalwarts of the portfolio were tasted along with a few interesting one-off wines - each with its own story - true to the Fairview brand.

2014 Premier Series Cabernet Sauvignon - $50
Recently removed from the 'available wines' menu in the shop, but you may be able to request a few bottles if you contact the winery soon. Always one of the better Cabernet Sauvignon in BC and the 2014 vintage is one of the best from the Fairview home vineyard since 2007.

2014 Premier Series The Bear - $45
A classic Meritage blend with ripe tannins and higher intensity than recent vintages of the label.

2015 Crooked Post Pinot Noir - $25
A very approachable, rounded Pinot and the best drink-now option of Fairview's portfolio, unless you want to spring for one of the library releases Bill Eggert, Fairview's winemaker and proprietor, makes available occasionally.
Icon Score

2015 Two Hoots - $25
Not yet released. Happily still priced at $25, this wine is a blend from multiple sites in the Southern Okanagan Valler. Roughly a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot. A wine to buy by the case.

2014 Mad Cap Red - $29
A fruit-forward, well-balanced, Merlot-driven alternate to the Two Hoots, though, similarly sourced from multiple vineyards in the Southern Okanagan.

2015 Fumé Franc - $35
In barrel, this Cabernet Franc showed extensive flavour influence from the 2015 fires that ravaged the Okanagan that year. Bottled separately and branded with a unique label immortalizing the fires that gave it its intense, smoky characters. A wine you either will love or hate - not a lot of middle ground on this one (this is why you visit in-person and taste before you buy).

2012 Autre Côté - $65
Another one-off label commemorating the final purchase of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Jean Baptist-managed U2 vineyard along the Black Sage Bench (on the other side of the valley, or d'autre côté). A contract no longer needed as the Fairview-managed, Quail's Wayside vineyard has come into full production. Good fruit + good vintage = good Cabernet.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc - $20
Nicknamed "Bill's Oyster Wine" and it's hard to improve on that association. A crisp, mouth-watering blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon sourced from the Fairview home vineyard and a another local vineyard.

2011 Iconoclast - $120
Sold only in the tasting room, this is the winery's one true Reserve/Barrel Select wine of the best Cabernet Sauvignon each vintageReleased "when ready" the 2011, showing brooding dark and blue fruit on the pruny-nutty nose and the spicy-acerbic, dry palate, has yet to be added to the portfolio, even at 6 years of age, though, this is likely to change soon for a late-Summer 2017 release.
Icon Score

- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017 IconWines.ca

Friday, July 21, 2017

Featured Wines: Tempranillo The Terrific

If the wine in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email (JCarrier@everythingwine.ca) or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's newest location River District in South Vancouver (8570 River District Crossing).



Tempranillo The Terrific


Google Images is awesome except when it isn’t. I’ll explain.
A few years ago we were pouring some great Spanish wines at our tasting bar, and my colleague who was running the tasting was about to print a sign for it when she hit a creative wall. She came to see me in the Vintage Room for advice.
“What picture should I use for the Spanish tasting?” she asked.
I was busy. “Um, Spanish people drinking wine”, I said. Boom. I spent the least amount of syllables and calories possible on that answer. Nailed it.
“How many Spanish people?” she replied.
I sunk, slightly. I don’t really care about pictures or signs (my house has pictures in it only because I am married). I care even less about how many imaginary Spaniards are drinking wine without me in a picture on a sign, but now here I am thinking about all of that. Sigh.
“Seven?” I offered out of thin air.
“Why seven?” she replied.
This strategy was clearly not a win for me. “Why don’t you just use a Spanish flag?” I said, closing the lid. My colleague begrudgingly accepted this lame new suggestion, and left to go and look for a Spanish flag on Google Images. I finished my re-stocking, put together some orders, and had started to answer my emails when she came back looking really upset. “That was a horrible idea”, she said.
She told me how an elderly gentleman reacted to her sign, saying that it brought back painful memories, and that the flag was offensive and should be removed.
“Well maybe that guy doesn’t like Spain” I said, because I’m not really that quick.
“No, he WAS Spanish”, she replied. I went and grabbed the sign that she made and looked at the flag. It had the familiar horizontal bands of red, yellow and red, but in place of the royal seal was a freaking gigantic scary black eagle. This was the flag of fascist Spain. This was the flag of Franco. Without speaking, we quickly found a picture of seven Spanish people drinking wine.
General Francisco Franco famously won the Spanish Civil War, the precursor to WWII, but the Spanish remember the next 40 years, when Franco ruled a despotic, isolated, impoverished Spain that became lost in time. Western Europe formed an economic union but Spain didn’t. France, Italy and Germany exported their wine-grape varieties to the burgeoning New World regions but Spain didn’t. It wasn’t until after Franco’s death in 1975 – well after Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir had conquered the globe – that the outside world got a peek at Spain’s glorious, legendary variety: Tempranillo.
What would the modern wine world look like had Franco lost the war? Tough to say: Tempranillo has, in the last couple of decades, proven kind of finicky when planted in expatriated settings – the most prominent attempts in California produced flaccid juice bombs and jug wines. In native Spain, though, the grape sings arias. Thin-skinned and hyper-sensitive to altitude, Tempranillo can play both the masculine and feminine roles: in Rioja Alta (the more traditional region) it can age like Burgundy or Brunello; in the warmer, lower regions like Toro and Ribera del Duero it can achieve the RPMs of the most intense Right Bank Bordeaux.
Here are some outstanding Tempranillo (with one tiny cheat):

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva “904” 2007, Rioja
A glorious returning champion, being as the 2005 vintage was last year’s #1 on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 (we didn’t skip over a year – they didn’t make a 2006). I have taken to calling this wine the Brunello of Spain; it drinks, finishes and cellars accordingly. Cherries, orange peel, vanilla and tobacco precede an intense, bright mouth-feel with a floral lift at the end (perhaps courtesy of the 10% Carignan). Massively gulpable now, but will thrive well into the next decade. One of my very favourite Spanish wines. Come try it to see, we’ll be pouring it this Saturday afternoon in the River District Vintage Room. 97 points James Suckling, 95 points Robert Parker, 4 cases available, $91.99 +tax

Bodegas J A Calvo Casajus “Nik” 2009, Ribera del Duero
Sorry in advance because I won’t have enough - I have the only bottles left in B.C., I’m told. I tried this at Wine Fest and can still taste it – cassis, mineral, spice and searchlight-bright red fruits around the kind of intense, hyper-charged body that 18 moths in new French oak can produce. Yowsers. Famous in Spain, these guys are new on the scene here. I hope they come back soon, with way more wine next time. 97 points Robert Parker, 2 4-packs available (yep they come in 4s), $124.49 +tax

Taylor Fladgate Very Old Single Harvest Port 1967, Douro Valley
Ok, this is the cheat because the blend in this Port is only partially Tempranillo (known locally as Tinto Roriz), but if you drink this you’ll surely forgive me. Grown in the year of Sgt. Pepper, this is nutty, herbaceous glory, braced by toast, licorice and caramel and finishing in a long graceful diminuendo. When we held our Taylor Fladgate Collectors Tasting last November, this 1967 was the clear crowd favourite by a mile. Classified as a Colheita (tawny Port from a single year) rather than a Vintage Port, this is exactly what looking at beautiful things tastes like. 98 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles (in wooden boxes) available, $259.99 +tax

I hope your summer is going super! Until next time,
Happy Drinking!!