Wednesday, December 23, 2009


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We remain unaffiliated with any wineries, agents or importers. Your wines will be scored objectively by ISG-trained reviewer Liam Carrier and contributors using the standard 100 point scale. Less than 80 = Below Average Quality; 81-85 = Average Quality; 86-90 = Above Average Quality; 91-95 = Exceptional Quality; 96-100 = Superior Quality.

Results will be posted on our website and may be used in articles on our site. Icon Wines enjoys a global and growing audience. Our reviews are frequently searched via Google and Twitter.

Please note that we are located in Vancouver, BC, Canada and that all appropriate duties must be prepaid with accompanying paper-work (if applicable).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Year's Eve Challenge: Wine Pairing

Every year my wife and I along with Hugh and his wife invite a few close friends to join us for a New Year's Eve getaway. The past number of years we have rented a cabin on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast to enjoy a few days away from the city. As a gourmet-chef-hobbyist, each year I plan an elaborate 4-5 course meal of my choosing. It is always a wine fest, but this year I thought I would up the ante a bit and turn it into a wine-pairing challenge for Hugh - put those Sommelier skills to the test.

Below is the menu I have planned with a list of ingredients. Hugh will add his wine-pairing choices below each course as they are selected - with his reasoning for the selection. - LC


First Course: Salad

Prosciutto-Cranberry-Mint Salad with Mango-Pomegranate Vinaigrette.
Ingredients: Lettuce, Fennel Leaves, Mint leaves, Prosciutto, Cranberries, Mango and Pomegranate Juice, Vinegar.

Wine Pairing:

To start things off before the salad a good palate cleanser is a sparkling wine. A nice Prosseco will pair well with brie or other soft, light-tasting, cheeses. This will prepare the palate for the other wines to come. The Prosecco I am choosing is the Prosecco Frizzante IGT - Mionetto Il Prosecco ($17.99 at the BCLDB).

Salad is one of the hardest things to pair with, and Liam made this one a hard with the complexity of flavours. I chose the Heartland Viognier - Pinot Gris ($24.99 BCLDB). I have not been disappointed by the Heartland products and the blend of Viognier and Pinot Gris will offer freshness and good acidity while complimenting the fruits with the fuller, more lucious Viognier.

Second Course: Pasta-Risotto Duo

Lobster and Ricotta filled Pesto Ravioli with Lobster and White Truffle Risotto.
Ingredients: Lobster, Risotto, Pesto Pasta, Basil, Parmesan, Onions, White Truffle Oil, Celery, Butter, Chanterelle Mushrooms.

Wine Pairing:

The ravioli and risotto will be rich and have a fair bit of weight. To compliment the weight of this course I am choosing a soft fruit and honey type Chardonnay. These types of chards are characteristic of areas in California; however, one of Icon Wines' favourite chards of the year was the Joie Farms Reserve Chardonnay from BC ($32 from winery). Weight to weight and bit of soft fruit and floral should be tasty.

Third Course: Meat

Beef Tenderloin in a Peppercorn and Red Wine sauce with Braised Vegetables.
Ingredients: Beef, Peppercorn Seasoning, Carrots, Asparagus, Fennel, Red Wine.

Wine Pairing:

A classic pairing for beef tenderloin with a red wine sauce is a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon. This course commands a wine that can stand up to its weight, but the dish allows for a wine that could have some depth and complexity. I have chosen the Edge Wines - Cabernet Sauvignon from California ($33.99 from the BCLDB). Simplicity with weight and power. The wine can offer some complexity as well.

Fourth Course: Desert

Chocolate Fondant
Ingredients: Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Fudge, Butter, Flour, Sugar, Vanilla,

Wine Pairing:

For the final course I wanted to add a wine from my home town. I chose the Stratus 2007 - Icewine Red ($39.85 from winery). This wine offers mid-sweet flavours of strawberry rhubard with some spice and good acidity. This combo of chocolate with strawberry flavours was hard to resist and should be a great topper to a fantastic meal.

Wines for Christmas Dinner

by Liam Carrier

"Which wine should I take to Christmas dinner?" "What pairs with turkey?" You may find yourself asking these questions over the next week as you get ready to either attend a Christmas dinner, host one or attend a similarly festive event. I have created two wine lists as suggestions to help you answer these questions: one with international wines and one with wines from BC.

Pairing Guidelines:

With Christmas Present Opening: You'll want a nice sipper that can stand on its own without food as you may be waiting a while for dinner with all of the presents to open.

Pre-Dinner: Something lively and crisp is needed here to wake-up those taste-buds and get them ready for the second-best dinner of the year (Thanksgiving being the best).

With Salad: You will want to continue the crisp theme with this pairing while adding a touch of complexity. Pick a versatile white to go with a wide-range of salads.

With Turkey (White Meat): If you were to pick one wine to go with all turkey meets, it would be the most recent vintage of Beaujolais. For fun I have broken it down into white and dark meat suggestions. For the white meat, go for an oaked, non-Chardonnay white wine. Something with character, but not too much.

With Turkey (Dark Meat) : I love Beaujolais and BC Gamay Noir with the dark meat. A subtle and medium-bodied Pinot Noir is a good substitute.

With Ham: Personally, I prefer ham at Easter, but for the Christmas-Ham folks out there I suggest a slightly off-dry white with orchard fruit flavours to match the apple-sauce.

With Roast Beef: For the roast-lovers I recommend making a splash and getting a great Bordeaux-style red or a nice Cabernet Sauvignon.

With Tofurky: A simple and refreshing white would work for the gamut of veggie side-dishes that may accompany the tofurky.

With Dessert: You will want a wine that is not as sweet as your dessert.

Post-Dinner: Finish off the meal with something sparkling. It's fun, it's sophisticated and it doesn't have to be expensive.

Night-Cap: Break-out your Port or Port-style wine and pour just an ounce or two into your glass to sip the night away with this powerful and complex wine. You'll need something strong on your palate after all the different tastes you will have had that day.


With Christmas Present Opening: Duck Pond 2006 Pinot Noir Full Review
Pre-Dinner: Saxenburg 2007 Guinea Fowl White Full Review
With Salad: Mionetto Il Prosecco Full Review
With Turkey (White Meat): Robert Mondavi 2007 Fume Blanc
With Turkey (Dark Meat): Georges DuBoeuf 2009 Beaujolais
With Ham: Pfaffenheim 2007 Pinot Gris Full Review
With Roast Beef: Heartland 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Full Review
With Tofurkey: Bollini 2007 Pinot Grigio
With Dessert: c Batasiolo 2008 Moscato D'Asti Full Review
Post-Dinner: Yellowglen Pink (Sparkling) Full Review
Night-Cap: 2006 Chateau Rieussec (Sauternes) Full Review

British Columbia

With Christmas Present Opening: La Frenz 2006 Pinot Noir Full Review
Pre-Dinner: Road 13 2008 Honeest John's White Full Review
With Salad: Fairview Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Full Review
With Turkey (White Meat): Burrowing Owl 2007 Pinot Gris
With Turkey (Dark Meat): Desert Hills 2008 Gamay Noir Full Review
With Ham: Lake Breeze 2007 Gewurztraminer Full Review
With Roast Beef: Laughing Stock 2007 Blind Trust Red Full Review
With Tofurkey: Averill Creek 2008 Pinot Grigio Full Review
With Dessert: Jackson-Triggs Sparkling Riesling Icewine or Elephant Island 2008 Apricot Dessert Wine
Post-Dinner: Sumac Ridge NV Tribute Brut
Night-Cap: La Frenz NV Tawny Port

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, December 14, 2009

WCOW: Argentina Single Red Varietal Nationals

Country: Argentina

Manager: Liam Carrier

This week we head down to South America and look at a couple unique wines at opposite ends of the oak-aging spectrum. I haven't included a Malbec in this try-out (yet) to highlight the availability of quality wines made from unique grapes in Argentina. Both Bonarda and Tannat are originally from Europe but have found a welcome home in the wonderful grape growing regions of Argentina.

Wine #1: Los Moras 2007 Reserve Tannat
Cost: $15-17
Region: Valle del Tulum - San Juan
Notes: 16 months in oak. Great aging potential with fine tannins and good acidity. Shows promise as a unique alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon. Drinking a bit young at the moment.
Full Review: Follow Link
Score: 87+ points

Wine #2: Bodegas Sur De Los Andes 2007 Bonarda
Cost: $14
Region: Mendoza
Notes: Unoaked. Dark fruits, cherry nibs, blueberries, cassis and vanilla notes. Made the Icon Wines top ten list for value wines of 2009.
Full Review: Follow Link
Score: 88 points

Conclusion: The Bonarda fruit-bomb is one fun wine to drink. It is ready to drink now and i think will be a great entry into the WCOW next June in the Single-Red Varietal blind tasting. The Tannat, although a good quality wine in its own right, has not yet peaked. I'm hoping to get my hands on another bottle or two for my cellar to age for two years and see if the tannins mellow and balance out the palate.

The next time you are perusing the shelves of your local wine shop looking for a good under-priced, over-delivering Argentina wine, try skipping the familiar Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon and pick up a bottle of Bonarda or Tannat. You will be pleasantly surprised. - LC

Friday, December 4, 2009

2009 BC Vintage Report

The following notes and quotes have been collected from numerous BC Wine industry contacts (as noted) describing what seems to have been an above average growing season, albeit a condensed one. - LC

Laughing Stock Vineyards: (Sep 29th)
"If you had asked us this spring, when snow still covered the vineyard, as to how the season would end, we would have been rather pessimistic with the latest bud break we've ever had thanks to the late arrival of spring. Coupled with the TSX at 7,500, things were looking pretty dire, with nature and the market obviously in cahoots. Fast forward 6 months, the TSX is over 11,000 and in the past 90 days of Okanagan sunshine, we've only had 2 days of rain, resulting in the earliest harvest ever at Laughing Stock."

From Burrowing Owl Estate Winery: (Oct 1st)
"Following an almost picture perfect grape growing summer the harvest has come upon us early. There is a good chance that you will see the action when you visit us during The Okanagan Wine Festival. Chardonnay (pictured here) and Pinot Gris were harvested Sept 21 & Sept. 22. Look for a spectacular vintage to result from this year's harvest. The quality of the grapes coming in are fantastic."

Road 13 Vineyards & Winery: (Dec 3rd)
"In the Okanagan Valley, cool climate viticulture is defined by its compressed growing season, which is possible with the long daylight hours that southern regions miss. 2009 was, hands down, the most compressed vintage that we’ve ever seen in the Okanagan. Bud break began almost 3 weeks late yet, despite the late start, the vines easily caught up with little rain and perfect temperatures for uninterrupted growth. We started into harvest well ahead of schedule which was fortunate because we were about to get hit with some unseasonably cold weather much earlier than normal. The growing season ended about 2 weeks early with a leaf killing frost (albeit on generally ripe grapes). We were fortunate for our ripeness to have caught up the way it did!
Obviously the weather conditions will have an impact on the flavours and textures of the wines, which will reveal themselves over time. Nobody honestly knows if the impact will be positive or simply “different”. The star wines that we have noticed so far in the cellar are definitely Chardonnay, which is showing excellent intensity and balance, and Merlot and Syrah, which are showing very good intensity as well as excellent tannic structure. Overall, we’re excited for the new vintage to be released and can’t wait to share them!"

Averill Creek Vineyard: (Dec)
"Averill Creek had a wonderful year in 2009 with a bumper harvest of very good quality, ripe fruit. We were expecting 65 tons of grapes and ended up picking 92 tons. The quality of the Pinot Noir was exceptional and we have great hopes for making a reserve which would be available in 2011. We will have good volumes of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer for 2010 and we will be releasing a new wine made in a Beaujolais style from our Marechal Foch."

Wild Goose Vineyards: (Dec 8th)
"Anyone who thinks that farming is not exciting should have lived through the 2009 growing season! It started after one of the coldest winters that we had ever experienced in our 25 years of growing grapes. Although there was tremendous damage to vineyards throughout the entire valley, Wild Goose fared rather well in that we suffered only small losses to our crops, both at our vineyards and at those selected vineyards which grow for us. Many Okanagan grape growers suffered huge losses to plants and crops. The harsh winter slowed the start of spring, but things picked up in June when the sun began to heat our valley. Once things warmed up, the heat never let up! The intense heat led to one of our earliest harvests on record. The harvest came so fast that our Wild Goose Riesling was harvested in September, the only time in our history that we picked Riesling in September!! Every variety appeared to ripen at the same time. We proceeded to pick one variety after another, with no breaks in between. Fortunately most of our grapes were harvested when the entire valley was hit with -10 C temperatures on October 10. Many locals who live in the Okanagan say they had never experienced cold temperatures like this so early in October. Any grapes that were still hanging when the freeze occurred were unaffected by the frost because the grapes were already ripe and were just waiting their turn to be picked and processed. After this freeze the valley experienced seasonally normal temperatures. So what was the result of all of this strange weather on the wine industry? One of the best harvests we have ever experienced!! Lovely clean fruit with vibrant flavours and beautiful crisp acidity. 2009 will certainly be an excellent vintage to watch out for when the wines are released in mid April!"

Black Hills Estate Winery: (Dec 9th)
"As you may have heard, the 2009 vintage could well be one of the most outstanding of the decade! Mother Nature delivered unto the South Okanagan a beautifully hot growing season from June to late September. Lots of warm days to enable full ripening of the fruit and cool nights to help capture the acidity in the grapes. This resulted in a harvest that started two weeks early than normal and kept our vineyard crew hopping throughout September.

When an early frost hit the Okanagan Valley on Oct. 7, 8 and 9, the impact was nominal to us as most of our grapes had already been picked. What grapes were on the vine were quickly harvested and processed with no impact on their quality. All in all, our winemaking team is very excited by what is shaping up in the tanks and barrels. The flavor profiles are incredible!"

Wine Awards

2010 was another great year for wine consumption here in Canada and around the globe. Wine sales, worldwide, are on the rise again as the practise of drinking fermented grapes continues to become more and more popular. Good wine has never been more assessable to more people.

Icon Wine of the Year - coming soon
Top 25 Value Wines of the Year - coming soon


The "Top X Wines of the Year" lists feature the highest scoring wines that we reviewed in that calendar year.
The "Top X Value Wines of the Year" lists feature the wines we reviewed in that calendar year which we feel represent the best value to the consumer.
The "Wine of the Year" award is subjectively awarded to the wine that we feel was simply "the best" wine released to the public within the calendar year. Our top award.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The 2009 Wine of the Year

December 9th, 2009

Icon Wines is proud to announce.

The 2009 "Wine of the Year" representing the best wine released in this calendar year is:

Blackwood Lane Winery 2006 Alliance $60 - 94pts
Full Review

This exquisite wine was first tasted in August by Icon Wines partners Liam Carrier and Hugh Carter during a visit to the winery for a barrel tasting of the upcoming 2007 vintage (tentative Feb 2010 release date). At the time we scored the current 2006 release a very strong 94/100 points and were equally impressed by the upcoming 2007 release. This wine stayed fresh in our memory through the 2006 Bordeaux and Fall releases and remained our favourite of all the wines we had tasted this year. Subsequent visits to the wineries for follow-up tastings helped to solidify it as a must for this year's "Wine of the Year" award.

The winery also produces another amazing Meritage blend called Reférence as a micro-cuvée with ultra-fine tannins and a higher price tag. However, the accessibility, production and price-point of Alliance won us over and put it over the top.

For more information on Blackwood Lane Winery visit their website:

Blackwood Lane wines are available direct from the winery or via select private fine wine shops. (Everything Wine, Firefly Ales & Wines)

Honorable mentions for the 2009 "Wine of the Year":

Lake Breeze 2008 Gewurztraminer
Full Review

La Frenz 2007 Montage
Full Review

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Top Ten Value Wines of 2009

Icon Wines partners Liam Carrier and Hugh Carter have selected their top ten value wines for 2009. This list features the wines we reviewed in 2009 that we feel represent the best value to the consumer. No price limit was applied to the list, nor was a simple price-to-points equation used. With this list we allowed ourselves to be subjective.

1. La Frenz Winery 2007 Montage $20 - 90pts
Full Review

2. Heartland 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon $22 - 91pts
Full Review

3. Lake Breeze Vineyards 2008 Gewurztraminer $18 - 91pts

4. Binder-Mitchell 2004 The Gunslingers Shiraz $29 - 94pts

5. Fairview Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc $20 - 91pts
Full Review

6. Bodegas Sur de Los Andes 2007 Bonarda $14 - 88pts

7. Stoneboat Vineyards 2008 Chorus $18 - 89pts

8. Luis Felipe Edwards 2006 Reserva Malbec $15 - 89pts

9. Road 13 Winery and Vineyards 2008 Honest John's Red $19 - 88pts
Full Review

10. Averill Creek Vineyard 2007 Pinot Gris $23 - 91pts
Full Review

Top Ten Wines of 2009

The following wines received the ten highest ranked scores when reviewed by Icon Wines partners Liam Carrier and Hugh Carter in the calendar year of 2009. The one exception is the "Icon Wines: Wine of the Year" which will be announced later on in December. Ties were broken by the wine's "x-factor" and investment potential.

Also see:

1. Binder-Mitchell 2004 The Gunslingers Shiraz - 94pts

2. Burrowing Owl Estate Winery 2006 Meritage - 93+pts

3. Mission Hill Estate Winery 2006 Oculus - 93+pts

4. La Frenz Winery 2006 Reserve - 93pts

5. 2006 Chateau Pape Clement - 93pts

6. 2006 Chateau Pichon-Longueville - 92.5pts

7. 2006 Chateau Rieussec - 92.33pts

8. Mission Hill Estate Winery 2006 Compendium - 92pts

9. Joie Farm 2007 Reserve Chardonnay - 92+pts

10. Mission Hill Estate Winery 2006 Perpetua Chardonnay - 92pts

Cellar Update: BC Icon Wines Fall Releases

The long-term value and viability of investing in BC Wine is yet unknown. Without a strong and healthy secondary market for BC Wine sales it is hard to speculate on the future value of any BC produced product. However, Icon Wines believes in the quality and longevity of the wine produced here in our home province and have decided to pick a few select wines for our portfolio.

The wines were selected based on their availability, price-to-point ratio, marketability and longevity. The following wines were added to the cellar:

Blackwood Lane 2006 Alliance
Fairview Cellars 2007 The Bear
Fairview Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Jackson-Triggs 2007 SunRock Shiraz
Joie Farm 2007 Reserve Chardonnay
La Frenz 2006 Reserve

WCOW - Results

Results from the Regional and National try-outs will be posted here as the country managers fill-out the rosters for the 2010 World Cup of Wine finals to be held in Vancouver, Canada in July, 2010. For full WCOW rules, click here.

Red Wine - Single Varietal
Red Wine - Blend - Posted November 22nd, 2009
White Wine - Single Varietal - Posted March 14th, 2010
White Wine - Blend - Posted February 7th, 2010

Red Wine - Single Varietal - Posted December 16th, 2009
Red Wine - Blend
White Wine - Single Varietal
White Wine - Blend

Red Wine - Single Varietal
Red Wine - Blend
White Wine - Single Varietal
White Wine - Blend

Red Wine - Single Varietal
Red Wine - Blend - Posted January 29th, 2010
White Wine - Single Varietal
White Wine - Blend

Red Wine - Single Varietal
Red Wine - Blend
White Wine - Single Varietal
White Wine - Blend

Red Wine - Single Varietal
Red Wine - Blend
White Wine - Single Varietal
White Wine - Blend

South Africa
Red Wine - Single Varietal - Posted January 10th, 2010
Red Wine - Blend
White Wine - Single Varietal
White Wine - Blend

United States
Red Wine - Single Varietal
Red Wine - Blend
White Wine - Single Varietal
White Wine - Blend

Profile: Hugh Carter

Hugh was born and raised in Niagara Falls Ontario Canada at the doorstep of the Niagara Wine region. Upon completing high school he attended the University of Waterloo where he completed his BSc in Biology where he focused most of his studies on plant and wildlife ecology. In 1999 Hugh moved out to Vancouver British Columbia with his girlfriend (now wife) and attended the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) where he studied forestry and renewable resource management and obtained a diploma in Forest Technology and an advanced diploma in Land and Resource Management. Hugh joined the work force in 2001 and did field inventories and measurements up and down the BC coast. Hugh started his MSc in forest biometrics in 2004 and completed it in 2007, where he focused on resource sampling while working full-time for with a natural resource consultant.

A trip to Okanagan Lake and the surrounding region in 2004 sparked a passion for BC wines. With such easy access to these wines it is hard not to love them. Anyone who lives in Vancouver knows how hard it is not to be a Canuck’s fan, this same logic could be applied to someone who has visited this gem of a wine region and not fall in love with the unique flavours that come out of this gorgeous landscape.

Through Icon Wines I hope to explore the economics and technical aspects of wine. I hope to help promote BC and Canadian wines and get people excited in drinking them, as well as investing in them. I am confident that there is a viable secondary market for the Canadian grape and good opportunities to make some money over time through the purchase of investment grade wine. - HC

Profile: Liam Carrier

Liam’s interest in wine was ignited at a quiet dinner party at the age of 25 in the form of a fine Alsatian Riesling matched perfectly with spicy Thai food which awakened his curiosity. To that point, wine had been but a drink to have with dinner, never an integral piece of the gastronomic puzzle. From then on, he gradually sought out more wines with which to challenge his late-blooming palate and thus began a life-long love-affair with wine.

Today, Liam is studying with the International Guild of Sommeliers to further his wine education and increase his enjoyment of wine. He hopes to turn into an internationally renowned website on Canadian wine and the icon wines of the world.

Born in London, Ontario he moved to British Columbia with his family at the age of six and has called both White Rock and Vancouver home. Currently residing in Port Moody, BC with his own, growing family, he splits his time as a wine reviewer and program manager in the software industry.

About Us is a wine consulting and wine review website that was established in May 2009 by writer and wine reviewer Liam Carrier. Wines from around the world are covered with a keen interest on the wines produced here in Canada. creates reviews and articles for the internet, social networking sites and print media that can be used to promote local and international wines. Reviews and articles remain separate and completely independent from any other services offered.

Main Contributors
Liam Carrier (articles, wine reviews)
Hugh Carter (events, tasting notes)

Icon Wines Mission
Our mission has two equally important objectives:
1) To become the Canadian gold standard in wine reviews and journalism by producing high quality, and innovative work and services.
2) Translate our passion and enthusiasm for wine culture and lifestyle to a global audience through current and pioneering technologies.

Icon Wines Vision
To generate an accessible secondary market for investment grade wines in Canada through the use of technology, social networking, marketing, and promotion.