Friday, March 26, 2010

WCOW: Chile Single Red Varietal Nationals

Country: Chile
Manager: Liam Carrier

Chile is known for great Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Carmenere. It is not really known for great Malbec, but I came across a value-priced gem at Marquis Wine Cellars last year and was mightily impressed. I matched it against a great Carmenere from the Maipo Valley which is one of the better examples of this spicy and smooth grape around the $20 price point.

Both of these wines are sold around the world closer to the $10 mark but due to our ridiculous import taxes in British Columbia (60%), show-up closer to the $20 price point. Luckily, both are worth the price in local currency and offer good examples of the fine wines produced in Chile. Chile = value (just not as great value compared to purchasing the same wines within the USA).

Wine #1: Haras de Pirque 2008 Equus Carmenere
Price: $19.99
Region: Maipo Valle
Country: Chile
Notes: The palate offers flavours of dark fruit, pepper, toasted oak, cooking spice and nibs that will please your mouth and culminates in a smooth and lingering finish.
Full review: Follow Link
Score: 88 points

Wine #2: Luis Felipe Edwards 2006 Reserva Malbec
Price: $15
Region: Puquillay Valley - Rapel
Country: Chile
Notes: Inky-purple core with a ruby rim, this full-bodied Chilean charmer offers an intense nose of red-berry and spice aromas.
Full review: Follow Link
Score: 89 points

Conclusion: The Luis Felipe Edwards 2006 Reserva Malbec takes this match-up on points and uniqueness. I look forward to the inevitable taste-off between this Malbec from Chile and the Argentina submission in the single-red category which will likely also be a Malbec.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Boldly Go… Blended

Road 13 Vineyards Removes Singles in Favour of Blends
By Liam Carrier

Today, top South Okanagan producer Road 13 Vineyards announced their plans to dramatically change its popular line-up of varietal-driven wines to that of a more terroir-driven line-up of blended wines. Gone are the single-varietal Road 13 riesling, Road 13 Chardonnay, Road 13 Syrah, Road 13 Merlot and Road 13 Cabernet Sauvignon. Added to the portfolio are two new blends:
  • Stemwinder ($21.99): a blend of Chardonnay, Chardonnay Musque and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Rockpile ($24.99): a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Viognier.
The change brings the total number of blends that Road 13 will produce up to five (the Honest John’s White & Red and top end Fifth Element will remain in the portfolio).

The change will help the winery release a more consistently good product as the percentage of blends can be modified in years when individual components underperform. This will benefit the consumer as BC wineries have been unwilling to relate pricing to quality in pour vintage years. With a more dependable end-product year-in, year-out the consistent price will easier to swallow.

This is certainly a bold move to make in the single-varietal-driven North American market. Hopefully, for the Oliver-based firm’s sake, the BC consumer is ready to embrace this sort change. With the track record that Road 13 has established in the short time since its rebranding from Golden Mile Cellars in 2008, this move to more blended wines will likely pan out. We look forward to trying them!

For more information go to

Monday, March 22, 2010

Restaurant Profile: Mistral French Bistro

Location: Kitsilano
Chef de Cuisine/Owner: Jean-Yves Benoit
Restaurant Director/Owner: Minna Benoit

Mistral French Bistro is a delightful little restaurant that serves topnotch French food and enjoys a strong base of repeat local customers. The room is small but very comfortable with appropriate lighting and soothing décor. When you enter you’ll likely be greeted by Minna Benoit who speaks with a charming French-Finnish accent. She runs the front of the house with both professionalism and effortless hospitality. Her staff of servers is well trained, friendly and impressively synchronized – it’s a team effort at the tiny Mistral. Enjoy a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere or watch the chefs at work through the partially open kitchen.

Icon Wines Recommends:

  • Start with a savory treat and share the Cold Cut Platter. It’s duck-lover’s dream. There’s plenty for two to enjoy as a warm-up before a salad or even your main course.
  • When you think of French food you often think of land animals in butter sauce. Well, they do fish in butter sauce too and Chef Benoit’s Fresh Sablefish in Beurre Blanc is to die for.
  • Ask your server for wine recommendations. They don’t have a full-time sommelier, but I have found the servers very knowledgeable about pairing the wine in their cellar with their menu.
  • It’s a bit cliché to go to a French restaurant and order Crème Brulée, unless it’s as good as Mistral’s. Order with dignity intact.
  • Take a cab. Parking is available to the lucky few who find a local block with no permit requirements or to those willing to plug the meter. For the rest, take a cab and enjoy more wine with dinner.
  • On the return visit you are sure to want, make a point to arrive for lunch and choose from one of their regional set menus (Provence, Marseille, Riviera and Traditional). Prices range from $19-24 and include three courses.
Go to for an up-to-date menu and online reservation form or call them at 604-733-0046.

The restaurant is a personal favourite of mine and one that I have enjoyed both birthdays and anniversaries at. The quality-to-cost is hard to beat.
 - Liam Carrier

Monday, March 15, 2010

WCOW: Canadian Single White Varietal Regionals

Country: Canada
Region: BC
Manager: Liam Carrier

When I think of the best white wines that BC has to offer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer come to mind. Other white varietals like Riesling and Viognier are on the rise but for this challenge I went for the big boys with multiple years of good vintages. As the best Chardonnay in BC are over $20 I was left with Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, which is just fine with me as I love them both.

Wine #1: Lake Breeze Vineyards 2008 Gewurztraminer
Price: $18
Region: Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley - BC
Country: Canada
Notes: Perfect acidity compliments the sweetness of the citrus fruit aromas and flavours despite the lack of any residual sugar.
Full review: Follow Link
Score: 91 points

Wine #2: Thornhaven Estates 2008 Pinot Gris
Price: $17.90
Region: Summerland - OkanaganValley - BC
Country: Canada
Notes: Lovely floral aromas of jasmine and blossoms with zesty citrus and rhubarb notes on the nose. Off-dry on the palate with tangy citrus acidity and cool minerality.
Full review: Follow Link
Score: 89 points

Conclusion: The Lake Breeze Gewurz takes this round on points and value. The Naramata Bench outfit make a number of great white wines, but I think their Gewurz shines and is one of the best examples of this varietal in the province. To learn more about the winery or plan a visit, check out their website . - LC

Thursday, March 4, 2010

BC Wine Deal: March 4th, 2010

The following wines have been reduced in price for March including the excellent Platnium Series wines from Kelowna producer Cedar Creek. Look for these deals at participating BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores like The Wine Emporium.

Cedar Creek Estate Chardonnay was $17.90 is NOW $15.00
Cedar Creek Platinum Chardonnay was $29.90 is NOW $23.00
Cedar Creek Platinum Merlot was $39.90 is NOW $30.00
Cedar Creek Platinum Pinot Noir was $39.90 is NOW $35.00
Cedar Creek Platinum Meritage was $44.90 is NOW $35.00
Cedar Creek Merlot was $19.90 is NOW $ 18.90
See Ya Later Gewurztraminer was $16.99 is NOW $14.99
See Ya Later Riesling was $16.99 is NOW $14.99

Inniskillin Dark Horse Meritage was $24.99 is NOW $21.99
Inniskillin Merlot Reserve was $16.99 is NOW $15.99
Inniskillin Chenin Blanc was $16.99 is NOW $14.99
Sumac Ridge Cabernet/Merlot was $14.99 is NOW $13.99
Sumac Ridge Merlot Private Reserve was $15.99 is NOW $14.99
Sumac Ridge Black Sage Cabernet Franc was $19.99 is NOW $18.99
Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir was $18.99 is NOW $17.99