Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Icon Wine(s) of the Year

For the first time we have a co-winner of our Icon Wine of the Year award; two excellent Syrahs with a similar story:

The Story
Both Syrah hail from estate wineries best known for producing big, bold, Bordeaux-styled, iconic red blends (Painted Rock's Red Icon and Black Hills' Nota Bene) yet, over the past few years, it is the house Syrah that I have found made a more lasting impression and are wines I would most often recommend, not as a consolation to the sold-out blends, but as a signature of quality for the winery and as an example of the heights this peppery, Rhone Valley grape can achieve in BC.

Syrah is handled with care in the vineyard, by both wineries, where the quality of the future wine is determined. Syrah needs constant care in the vineyard as it can grow wildly if left to its own devices and can get hit hard by BC's harshest winters.

Talking to vineyard staff about growing Syrah in BC is like discussing the ailment history of a self-diagnosing hypochondriac: you'll get a laundry list of complaints about keeping the vines healthy - even in good-weather years. Mention a particularly cold season to a vineyard manager, like the frost-heavy 2008 winter, and from the horror stories you'll hear, you'll be amazed that the vines survive at all.

Red Icon and Nota Bene have earned the hype these wines receive, but there is more to their producers than these well-promoted, 'flagship' wines, and it's their Syrah you will secretly crave and collect.

The Wines

Black Hills Estate Winery 2015 Syrah - 92+pts
Fantastical concentration in this Black Sage Bench sourced Syrah with deep, black cherry and sensual, floral aromas on the generous nose and oak-kissed layers of black cherry, mint, pepper, tobacco and blood orange flavours on the smoky, fine tannin palate. Simply gorgeous.

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2015 Syrah - 92-93pts
This youthful Syrah displays ripe cherry and plum fruit with integrated white pepper, pepperoni and floral aromas followed on the dry, grippy-tannin palate with similar flavours and added layers of blood orange, mint and vanilla.

Previous Winners

  • 2016 - Cassini Cellars 2013 The Aristocrat
  • 2015 - Le Vieux Pin 2012 Équinoxe Syrah
  • 2014 - Painted Rock 2012 Red Icon
  • 2013 Stag's Hollow Winery 2010 Cachet No. 03
  • 2012 - Painted Rock Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay
  • 2011 Fairview Cellars 2009 The Wrath
  • 2010 - Stratus Vineyards 2007 Red
  • 2009 Blackwood Lane Winery 2006 Alliance

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Featured Wines: When Tuscans Attack!

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

When Tuscans Attack!

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, your lights are red and yellow,
Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, we drank all our Brunello!
And now we’re sad, and thirsty too,
We’re going to take it out on you!
Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, we’ll cover you with Jello!

Stop the madness. Put the Jello down. I have more Tuscan wines for you to enjoy while you decorate:

Sassicaia 2014, Bolgheri Sassicaia
The first Supertuscan, and the first Italian winery to become a Monopole (where one winery owns the entire appellation), although to be fair, the appellation of Bolgheri Sassicaia DOCG was created for them in the ‘90s, partially to recognize Sassicaia’s 4 decades under the official bus while they were unofficially kicking butt. 2014 was a challenging year in all of Italy, but it was kinder to Bolgheri, given that late-ripening grapes like Cabernet (a star ingredient of the appellation) were able to wait out the weather and still make rich wine. This year’s Sassicaia is a kind of throwback to Old World vibes, elegant and Médocaine with spicy red and black fruit surrounding the flinty delivery. Sniper-like precision on the finish, balancing the minerality, acid, tannin and glycerine that will all come together perfectly in just a few years. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 93 points Robert Parker, 5 wooden 6-packs available, $219.49

Antinori Tignanello 2014, Toscana I.G.T. 
The second Supertuscan, although many consider it to be the first one, because a) nobody cared about Sassicaia until they beat a Bordeaux in a blind tasting in the ‘80s and b) the nontraditional Tig made more of an impact given the 900 year history of the Antinoris telling everyone how traditional they should be. The 2014 vintage separated the experts from the tourists, and the Antinoris are certainly no tourists: severe canopy management and green harvests wrested a bold wine from the jaws of dilution, and elevating the levels of Cabernet Sauvignon (sitting at a high of 25%) added enough oomph to produce a delicious, rich but classically hued Tig that only dropped one Wine Spectator point from last year’s hallowed Top Ten 2013. 94 points James Suckling, 93 points Wine Spectator, 10 6-packs available, $92.99

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2012
You know that part of the concert when the band stops playing their new stuff and starts playing the songs you went to go hear? Il Poggione. Equal parts Traditional and Modern, delivering just enough stony structure to offset Dr. Smooth’s Pleasure Train that rolls down the tracks shooting dried cherries and black Twizzlers out of T shirt cannons. Will be even better in a year but no one will be penalized for impatience either. Delicious. 95+ points Robert Parker, 8 6-packs available, $87.99

2017 Top 5: Red Blends

For the 2017 awards season, in addition to our Top 20 list and singular Icon Wine of the Year, we're including a celebration of the best wines in a few select categories. Here are our Top 5 Red Blends of 2017:

1. Painted Rock Estate Winery 2015 Red Icon - 93pts
Always complex and layered, look for brambly berries, cool cassis, licorice'n'mint, fresh tobaco, spiced herbs and brooding, smokey oak notes on the glass escaping nose and the elegant, dry palate where fine, grippy tannins linger on a long, spicy finish.

2. La Frenz Winery 2014 Grand Total Reserve - 91-93pts
Built for the long-haul, with excellent concentration and refined, youthful tannins, this blend of 42% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc delivers an intense and powerful nose of dark fruits, menthol, Christmas spices, toasted oak with a hint of sweetness emanating from the ripe fruit aromas.

3. Upper Bench Estate Winery 2014 Yard Wine - 92+pts
For this beautifully aromatic and intensely dark blend, Upper Bench co-fermented Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes (a 70/30 split, respectively) and then aged them in 25% new French oak barrels for 18 months prior to bottling. The finished wine is equal parts 'pretty' and 'dark' with eucalyptus-mint, spicy cocoa and black cherry-cassis notes on the sensual nose and brooding, blackberry, cola, cocoa, toasted oak and minty flavours on the well-balanced, fine-tannin palate.

4. Cassini Cellars 2014 Maximus - 92+pts
This is a Meritage-style, big'n'bold red that excels in long, hot vintages (not that surprising for Bordeaux varieties) and 2014 was just such a vintage in the Southern Okanagan. The latest Maximus is comprised of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec offering a dark and brooding nose of black licorice, menthol, cassis liqueur, blackberries, toasted vanilla, tobacco and light spices. 

5. LaStella 2014 Espressivo - 92pts
 Offers a feminine-earthy profile, on the herbaceous, floral and brambly berry nose and on the medium-bodied, concentrated palate graced with vanilla'n'spice-kissed berry flavours and framed by mouth-watering, yet, effortless acidity and engaging, yet, refined tannins.

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017