Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gewurztraminer: BC's Signature White?

Is Gewurztraminer BC's Signature White Varietal? Icon Wine's Liam Carrier Makes The Case...

Lovers of BC Chardonnay need not fear (nor write nasty letters), nary a negative word will be written in this article knocking the many fantastic Chardonnays produced in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Rather, I simply desire to highlight the lesser-publicized varietal that is our small-bunched and blue-ish friend.

One cannot define, with a single sentence, the Okanagan Valley's climate and selection of diverse terroir except, perhaps, to state that "it is perfect for growing Gewurztraminer". However, does this statement alone make Gewurztraminer the region's signature white varietal? Of course not. It takes a group of talented winemakers to work with the grapes and produce the quality aromatic and often delicate wine many of us "Wurz-heads" love so much.

Gerwurztraminer excels in the warm areas of cool climate regions which fits the Okanagan Valley to a tee. The valley's winemakers are also excelling in their own right using cool fermentation methods to preserve the natural aromatic qualities of the varietal producing an array of different Gewurztraminers to choose from. The wines, ranging from bone-dry to ice wine, showcase the uniqueness of each planted area in the valley and reflect the winemaker's vision for the final product.

The following Gewurztraminers represent a wide selection of the fine product available to BC consumers. Sadly, very few make it out of the province although I have seen the Lake Breeze offering as far East as Winnipeg. Seek them out where you can and compare to the excellent Ontario product if you have the means.

2007 Township 7 - $18.99
The Towship 7 offerings is very dry and very subtle. Good acidity with strong mineral notes and tropical fruitiness on the palate. Muted, yet layered floral and orange-spice aromas on the nose. 88pts

2008 Red Rooster - $15.99
Near-dry and very tasty. Crisp and balanced. Will match nicely with many spicy Asian dishes. Excellent price-point. 87pts

2008 Tinhorn Creek - $16.99
Golden Mile Bench grown grapes in this fairly classic Gewurztraminer. Lychee, peach, grapefruit and melon aromas and flavours. Good medium acidity help make this a nice and refreshing wine to match with food. 87pts

2007 See-Ya-Later Ranch - $17.01
Off-dry. Floral aromas with grapefruit and lychee accents. Honey dew melon and more lychee fruit flavours with medium acidity which balances the fruit-sweetness very well. 89pts.

2008 Grey Monk Estate Winery - $16.99
Light spice and orchard fruit nose with tropical fruit and melon flavours on the palate. Decent complexity but lacking in intensity of aromas and flavours. 85pts

2008 Cedar Creek - $17.90

Off-dry. Orange blossom and lychee spice aromas with citrus and tropical fruit flavours with mineral notes. Lacks intensity on the nose and acidity on the palate. Pair with spicy-savoury fare. 86pts

2008 Lake Breeze Vineyards - $16.99

Touch of residual sugar. One of the most pleasant noses you will ever smell. Full of intense floral, perfume and tropical fruit aromas which carry through to the palate. Perfectly balanced wine with good crisp acidity on the finish. The best Gewurztraminer in BC for 2008. 91pts

Full Review

2008 Thornhaven - $17.99
An off-dry verging on medium-dry, tropical fruit bomb. Match with spicy Asian fare to discover the hidden complexity of lychee, minerals and moderate acidity. 88pts.

So, is Gewurztraminer BC's signature white wine? Well maybe, maybe not. It would be hard to say that the Province's best Chardonnays and Rieslings wouldn't compete for that title as well. However, many of the premium Chardonnays command a premium price whereas BC's top Gerwurztraminers do not. All of the wines featured in this article are below the $20 price-point. One could therefore propose that Gewurztraminer is "BC's signature budget white wine" or "BCSBWW", but that's a terrible title and in the end that all doesn't matter. We'll keep signing BC Gewurztraminer's praise and you can decide for yourself.

At Icon Wines we are always interested in your feedback. Please share your thoughts about this or any other article at iconwines@shaw.ca

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Our Favourite Lower Mainland Wine Shops

Fraser Valley
#500-22259 48th avenue, Langley
We like: Best VQA selection. Good prices. Weekly tastings.
About: The Wine Emporium is a VQA affiliated store located in Langley and id the Fraser valley’s best kept secret. Owner/manager Frank Valente will help you pick the perfect wine for any occasion. They are the only VQA store in the Lower Mainland to carry Icon Wines favourite Fairview Cellars. Prices match BCLDB and they often have wines that are sold-out at the winery.

PoCo Signature BCLDB
Nicola Station: 1097 Nicola Avenue, Port Coquitlam
Westwood Center : 2748 Lougheed Hwy, Port Coquitlam

We like: Decent BC section. Good vintage section. Marked-down items.
About: There are two “Signature” BC Liquor Stores in Port Coquitlam and they are two of the best in the Lower Mainland. Bargain hunters will often find good wines marked-down. The Nicola Station has a great selection of 2006 Bordeaux still available.


Kensington Square Wines
6626 Hastings St, Burnaby

We like: Weekly tastings blog. Good VQA selection.
About: Sign-up for owner/manager Leah’s email notice to receive her weekly blog about what they are tasting at the store each Friday and Saturday. Friendly staff will help you find a bottle of VQA goodness. Good selection of Road 13, See-Ya-Later Ranch, Mission Hill and Cedar Creek.
1034 Davie Street, Vancouver

We like: Wines of the weekend specials. Fun events.
About : Marquis Wine Cellars has the best selection of French and Spanish wine in BC. They are the place to go to make your Bordeaux Futures order and have a great “Wines of the Weekend” discount program. They also have a knack for bringing in top value Argentinean and Chilean wines that the BCLDB don’t carry.

Flagship Signature BCLDB
5555 Cambie Street, Vancouver

We like: Vintage selection. Events.
About: BCLDB’s largest in-store selection of wines. This stores hosts most of the bigger wine events; both paid and free. Knowledgeable staff in all BCLDB Signature stores but this location seems to have the most “experts” on staff.

North Vancouver

998 Marine Drive, North Vancouver

We like: Huge selection. Mari Kane’s wine blog. Events.
About: Everything Wine has an impressive wine list that covers all regions and price points. Many offerings are at par with BCLDB prices and some aren’t; you’ll have to shop wise. Great selection of wine accessories and we especially like their wall of 90+point wines. Owner/manager Mari Kane’s wine blog is a nice addition to the informative website. Sign-up for email notifications for upcoming paid and free events.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mission Hill's Legacy Series New Releases

Mission Hill Family Estate put on a tasty show on Wednesday, October 7th for wine and restaurant industry personnel at the amazing Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Vancouver. The winery were pouring their full range of brands but the stars of the show were the four new releases that make up the firm's "Legacy Series": the 2007 Perpetua, the 2006 Quatrain, the 2006 Oculus and the latest addition to the line-up the 2006 Compendium.

2007 Perpetua - $32.99
The winery's mission for the Perpetua label is to showcase a stripped-down, single-vineyard Chardonnay with minimal winemaker or oak influence. They have succeeded nicely. The Osoyoos vineyard growing the fruit produces classic Chardonnay flavours of pears, apple, lemon, minerals and aromas of citrus, butter and honey. This wine will benefit from further aging. 90pts

2006 Quatrain - $45
This is the sophomore vintage for the winery's Rhone-valley inspired blend. This year they chose to promote Syrah to the majority varietal in the final blend and its spicy pepper notes show prominently on the very impressive nose. Disappointingly, the intensity of expression dips on the palate and you are left with a slightly bi-polar wine; intensely complex on the nose and suspiciously-subtle on the palate. 87pts

2006 Compendium - $40
The new addition to the Legacy Series portfolio is an excellent Bordeaux-style blend with a good price-point that is very approachable now and will compete admirably with similarly priced BC Meritage blends. Good fruit intensity on the nose and palate with excellent tannin and acid structure. 1-2 years of aging will improve this wine even further. 92pts

2006 Oculus - $70
The latest Oculus release is a return to form after the disappointing 2005 vintage. Layers and layers of complexity and concentrated aromas and flavours make this a compelling wine. 2-3 years of cellaring is needed to make the most of your $70 investment and the excellent tannin and acid structure should allow you to enjoy this wine for a decade. 93pts

For full reviews of these wines please visit our Icon Scores website HERE.

Monday, October 5, 2009

U20 World Cup of Wine Press Release

The World Cup of Wine – U20 – Presented by Icon Wines
June 11th – July 11th 2010
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

World Cup team try-out coverage begins in November, 2009.

For Immediate Release - Icon Wines is proud to present the inaugural U20 World Cup of Wine. Eight countries will compete in the tournament in the following categories: Single-Varietal White, Single-Varietal Red, White-Blend, Red-Blend. All wines must be purchasable for $20 or under in the host city of Vancouver.

The participating countries are:

Pool A: Argentina, Australia, Canada and Italy
Pool B: Chile, France, the USA and South Africa

Regional and national team try-outs will begin in November 2009 and will be covered by the Icon Wines (www.iconwinesbc.blogspot.com) and Icon Scores (www.iconscores.blogspot.com) websites.

“The Finals” tournament, held through June 11th and July 11th 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada will consist of round-robin play in Head-To-Head match-ups within the pools. The winners of each pool will cross-over to face the second-place finisher of the other pool. Then the round two winners will face-off for the 2010 World Cup on July 11th, 2010. - IW

Cellar Update: 2006 Bordeaux Purchase

On October 3rd, 2009, Icon Wines partners lined-up early in the morning to be one of the first to purchase 2006 Bordeaux wines at the Westwood Centre BCLDB store. This was our first Bordeaux release purchase and it was a learning experience as we made a couple of rookie mistakes, but it all worked out in the end.

Arriving at 8:00 am Saturday morning, a full 1.5 hours before the doors were to open at 9:30 am at the Port Coquitlam store; we figured we had over done it due to the fact that there was no visible line. Therefore, we decided to go have a leisurely breakfast at the DeDutch restaurant in the adjoining plaza and go over our strategy for the day.

Our strategy was simple: focus on the wine we feel is the star of the vintage, Chateau Pontet-Canet (Pauillac, $129, 94pts WA), and then pick a few more wines with good points-to-price ratio for our cellar and to be used in future Icon Wine events.

After finishing breakfast around 9 am we decided to go line-up anyway and mingle with the small crowd that was beginning to form. Waiting at the door a BCLDB employee popped their head out to ask if we had already placed a “bottle order” earlier in the morning. Having no idea what he was referring to we were intrigued to learn that the store had been taking order forms for the hot 2006 wines since 5:30 am that morning. Quizzing him on what was left, we discovered that they were already out of the Pontet-Canet.

HC decided to go try the other PoCo BCLDB store (Nicola Station) to try and get the coveted Pontet-Canet and I would stay in line at Westwood to look looking for the points-to-price purchases. I picked-up:

Chateau Marsau (Cotes de Francs) $25 – 88pts WA
Chateau De Fonbel (Saint-Emilion) $29.00 – 89pts WA
Chateau Pavie Macqui (Saint-Emilion) $99.00 – 92+pts WA
Chateau Rolland-Maillet (Saint-Emilion) $29.00 - 90pts WS

As it turned out, the Nicola Station BCLDB had little to no crowd and no pre-orders snatching up the 2006 favourites. HC picked up the Pontet-Canet and returned to meet me at the Westwood store to complete our order. In the end we got the wines we wanted and learned what to do better next time around. Of course, the jury is still out on the purportedly weak 2007 vintage. We’ll do our research throughout the year and make up our minds if their will be a 2007 purchase or not. - LC