Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best of Niagara: Red Blends

The blending of Bordeaux varietals and beyond to produce a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts is a popular practice in every New World wine region and Niagara is no different. Sometimes the blending is done to plug a small hole in the facade of the prominent varietal on display or to simply boost the flavour profile and add complexity. However, now and then the art of blending (and it is an art) is the end goal. To carefully construct a wine using the building blocks of different varietals resulting in a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Below are our favourites from the Niagara region organized by price.

$20 and below:

Generation Seven Wines 2009 Red - $14
This blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Gamay finds its voice by focusing on the fruit characters of each varietal creating a smorgasbord of berry and dark fruit flavours. No lengthy oak program needed for this fun and easy-drinking wine that offers a spectrum of aromas and flavours framed nicely by soft, smooth tannins and a strong acidic kick. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.
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Fielding Estate Winery 2008 Fireside Red - $16
A red blend from Beamsville bench producer Fielding Estate Winery that offers incredible value for price. A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc the Fireside Red is a little rough around the edges with green tannins. But for the price, this wine delivers great food pairing options for grilled steaks. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.

Fielding Estate Winery 2008 Red Conception - $19
A blend of 47% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 14% Pinot Noir, 12% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Red Conception brings with it more complexity and refinement to the table than its baby brother Fireside. The 2008 is a bit harder edged than the sublime 2007 version, but still delivers solid value. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.

$30 and below:

Thirty Bench Estate Winery 2008 Red - $24
Dry, but with the sense of sweetness coming from the concentrated blackberry and dark fruits. The nose offers youthful aromas of cassis, dark berries, dark cherry, leather, pencil shavings and oak spice. Treated with a year of aging in French and American oak and full malolactic fermentation. The end result is a lovely wine with silky-smooth tannins and a moderate-plus finish with lingering oak spice. Where to buy: Direct from winery, online and LCBO stores.
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$40 and below:

Lailey Vineyard 2007 Meritage Canadian Oak - $40
A rarity to be sure. This blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in Canadian Oak barriques rather than French or American oak. The Niagara specialty of Cabernet Franc is on show here with round and smooth tannins. If you can't get a hold of this unique wine, pick up the firm's regular Meritage as an excellent consolation price. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.

Chateau Des Charmes 2007 Equuleus - $40
From the Niagara-On-The-Lake producer perhaps best known for value wines comes this fantastic Old World-style red blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Refined, smooth and very unique. Delivers complex layers of flavours and aromas. Will age nicely over the next 3-4 years. Pair with roasted meats and prime rib. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.
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Above $40:

Stratus Vineyards 2007 Red - $44
The bone-dry palate with its vibrant, juicy texture offers intense flavours of dark fruits, blueberry, leather, oak and gravel with just a hint of citrus. Bright, ripe tannins are a just tad tight at the moment. We recommend decanting for a few hours if drunk young. This is a fantastic wine that will last a decade or more. Where to buy: Direct from winery, online and LCBO stores. Also available in BC private shops.
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Tawse Wines 2007 Meritage - $58
One of the best red blends in Canada. Supremely smooth and refined. Blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Franc. A wine to place in your cellar and bring out for special occasions - or make the opening of this amazing wine the special occasion. Where to buy: Direct from winery and online.

Friday, September 24, 2010

BC VQA Fall Preview - Part 1

On September 23rd, 2010 the BC Wine Institute held its Fall Preview trade tasting at the new Vancouver Convention Center offering 100's of wine directors, servers, wine shop owners, media and "LB Wine Advocates" a glipse at new releases and a review of the current wines on offer. The later group being the folks from your local BC Signature Liquor Stores who were hopefully charmed by the many excellent wines on offer and will order more into their stores.

Keeping in mind too many wineries (over 60) in too little time, below are the notes for the wineries I visited with. Follow the links for the full review of select wines. (arranged alphabetically)

Black Hills Estate Winery
No new releases, however, Glenn Fawcett, winery president, was pouring their excellent 2008 Note Bene in double magnum format - what a treat. Wines bottled in large format tend to stay fresher as they age slower (less oxygen contact). For the 2008 vintage, it's the closest thing to tasting right out of the barrel. Any chance you get to attend a large format tasting, take it!

I also re-tasted their fabulous 2009 Viognier and liked it as much as the first time. A great first vintage.

Fairview Cellars
No new releases (yet). I re-tasted Bill Eggert's fabulous 2009 Sauvignon Blanc which remains one of my favourites of the year. Look for the new vintage of his Meritage blends "The Bear" and "Madcap Red" later in the fall. Fairview's current releases:

LaStella Winery
Released in October, the 2008 Fortissimo ($38, 14.2%) is a Super-Tuscan inspired blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. A powerhouse of a wine that will be sure to please the LaStella faithful and attract new consumers to the Osoyoos based winery. Fantastic.

Nk'Mip Cellars
I focused on the two Qwam Qwmt reserve reds on offer with mixed results.

2007 QQ Syrah ($34.99, 14.2%) a lovely nosed and peppered palate wine. Creamy texture with good concentration of flavours.

2007 QQ Meritage ($29.99, 14.5%) a blend of 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc which suffers from the dreaded under-ripe tannins that no amount of cellaring will correct. Has decent complexity but is overshadowed by other Meritage blends from the vintage.

Osoyoos LaRose
Unfortunately, viticulturist and winemaker Pascal Madevon wasn't pouring the upcoming release of Osoyoos LaRose which has been heavily built up by Vines Magazine. It should be released to the public on October 22nd - keep an eye out for it at your local BCLDB or VQA store.

If the "second wine", the 2007 Petales D'Osoyoos, is any indication (available now, $25) than the new Grande Vin may just live up to the hype. The 2007 is the best Petales yet with great concentration of aromas and flavours reflecting the warmer 2007 vintage. Amazingly, even the second label wine would benefit from another year in the bottle.

Go to Part 2

BC VQA Fall Preview - Part 2

Part 2 of our coverage of the BC VQA Fall Preview trade tasting, "Colour". Back to Part 1

Painted Rock Estate Winery
The Skaha Bench winery, under the direction of proprietor John Skinner, is in a luxurious position to be in-demand for its current releases (mostly sold-out) and sitting on their next vintage. Will he release them early to accommodate demand or when they are deemed "ready"? I'm not sure if he even knows yet.

As a preview, he poured the 2008 vintage of their Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Icon, both recently bottled and awaiting a release date. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is nuanced and layered. Classic Cab aromas and flavours with a powerful presence on the palate. The 2008 Red Icon goes in a new direction away from the Cabernet Franc heavy 2007, with Merlot taking the lead and no Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. The result is a more familiar blend and one that will send your palate into a euphoric coma. You won't be sure how much time has passed. Wow. I can't wait to taste it again.

Look for future vertical releases of Painted Rock's flagship wine Red Icon as the winery is employing a new library strategy, holding back some cases of each vintage. Enjoying this wine, and its ever evolving and changing blend, in a vertical tasting will make for a fun experience.

Poplar Grove Winery
The soon to be released 2006 The Legacy ($50, 14.8%) follows on the heels of the excellent 2005 vintage, which is still available. The aging of this big red has been done for you at the winery and thus the wine is approachable upon release. Further development with cellaring will be minimal but its excellent tannic structure will allow a long window of enjoyment.

Road 13 Vineyards and Winery
Sadly, one of my favourite R13 wines, their 2008 Viognier-Roussanne-Marsanne, has not returned and is being replaced by their new 2009 Viognier-Riesling-Sauvignon Blanc blend. A fine wine in its own right and well priced at $22.99. A blend of 61% Viognier, 30% Riesling and 9% Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp with big, juicy fruit flavours from the hot 2009 vintage. 13.9% alcohol.

Rollingdale Winery
Re-tasted their fabulous 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir which recently won a silver medal at the 2010 Wine Access awards and which seems to have been dropped in price to only $19.99! Buy a case.

Stag's Hollow Estate Winery
A few recent releases. Most will be available at your local VQA store.

2009 Con-Fusion ($17.00, 13.2%) a fun blend dominated by Gewurztraminer aromas and flavours with Riesling, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc also in the mix. I fear this wine may have been released a bit late in the Summer as it would be best paired with a sunny deck. However, Thai food is reportedly sold throughout the year.

2008 SHV Pinot Noir ($24.99, 13.8%) an easy-drinking Pinot that won't break the bank. Med tannins and body with high-ish acid and mild oak influence.

2008 Syrah ($27.99, 14.8%) a Cote Rotie inspired blend of Syrah and Viognier (91%-9%). Lots of aromatic perfume notes on the nose from the Viognier - just a schoch less would be perfect. Otherwise, an excellent Syrah full of big pepper and fruit flavours.

Tantalus Vineyards
The West Kelowna winery has 30 acres under vine on their 48 acre property and focuses on delivering estate grown Riesling, Pinot Noir and a recent addition to the line-up, sparkling wine. Thus far, the winery has only one vintage of sparkling wine, 2004, however, the tough growing season of 2010 may result in another as the traditional method employed by the winery calls for under-ripe, high acid grapes. My guess is they won't wait 6 years to release the next batch.

2004 Classic Cuvée ($24.90, 13.6%) a lovely nosed brut with Champagne-like leesy characters and crisp fruit flavours. A very well priced, fun wine.

2004 Riesling Méthode Traditionelle ($52.90 1.5L) a bit of an odd duck. Major petrol notes on the nose followed by very high acid on the palate with flavours of citrus and lees. Only available in magnum size.

2009 Riesling ($22.90) warmer and more intensely fruity on the nose and palate than the 2008 vintage. Strong minerality and acid keeps the wine balanced. An excellent Riesling.

2008 Pinot Noir ($29.90) the cooler 2008 vintage produces a more austere wine than the excellent 2007 vintage. One of the better terroir-driven Pinots in the Province.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2010 Okanagan Fall Wine Festival

The 2010 Okanagan Fall Wine Festival runs October 1st through October 10th with many wineries participating. There are dozens of events to choose from ranging from wine tastings to vineyard experiences. Many are organized by the Okanagan Wine Festivals' Society and others are hosted solely by the wineries themselves. Below is a list of just a few events, highlights if you will, of the many options available.

Delta Grand Okanagan Resort - Kelowna
WestJet Wine Tastings - $61
6:30 p.m - 9:00 p.m. on Friday, October 1st
More Information

Black Hills Estate Winery - Black Sage Bench
10-year Vertical Tasting of Nota Bene - $150
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 2nd
(Icon Wines in attendance)
More Information

Double Magnum Private VIP Reception & Pool Party - $119
4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 2nd
(Icon Wines in attendance)
More Information

Stag's Hollow - Okanagan Falls
Tempranillo and Tapas - $35
11:30 a.m.-1:00p.m. on Saturday, October 2nd

More Information

Oliver Community Centre - Oliver
Festival of the Grape - $22
12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 3rd
More Information

La Frenz Winery - Naramata Bench
Winemaker's Dinners - $Call for pricing
6:30 p.m. @Bogners of Penticton on Tuesday, October 5th. 250 493 2711
6:30 p.m. @Naramata Heritage Inn on Friday, October 8th. 250 496 6808
More Information

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards - Golden Mile Bench
Vineyard & Habitat Family Hike - $25
All day event on Wednesday, October 6th
More Information

Hester Creek Estate Winery - Golden Mile Bench
Tuscan Dinner - $150
6:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. on Friday, October 8th
More Information

Lake Breeze Vineyards - Naramata Bench
Seven Poplars Cellar Dinner - $115
7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 9th
More Information

Seven Stones Winery - Cawston
Lunch and Vertical Tasting - $40
12:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 10th
More Information

Nk’Mip Cellars - Osoyoos
Wake Up With Wine - $35
Starts at 9:00 a.m. every day of the festival
More Information

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bordeaux 2007

For collectors and lovers of Bordeaux wines, this time of year is always exciting. Research, research, tasting, research. "Is the vintage any good?" is the question we all ask, followed closely by "Is it any good?" Well...

The 2007 is clearly overshadowed by the amazing 2005 vintage and the often very good 2006 vintage. Plus, it doesn't help that futures for above average 2008 vintage were priced low and the 2009 vintage has been heralded as a candidate for the "vintage of the century" by some wine critics. Add to all of that and the futures for 2007 were priced way too high for the quality of the vintage (to the degree that many didn't order). The 2007 vintage has been lost in the mix.

So, what to do? Well, our view remains that there are gems in every vintage to discover and the savvy collector need only do the appropriate research to find them. We've made a few recommendations below, based on our own research, on a few gems from 2007 that we will be adding to our own cellars which take into account value, collectability and quality.

Beyond these picks, the 2007 release is a good opportunity to enjoy some of the bigger Chateau at a lower cost. The vintage, in general terms, is ready-to-drink now, so don't plan on squirreling away these wines forever - treat yourself and buy one to open.

Our picks for 2007:

Chateau Bell-Vue - Haute-Medoc $35
Chateau Bolaire - Bordeaux Superieur $29
Chateau Climens - Barsac $129 (375ml)
Chateau Doisy Daene - Barsac $45 (375ml)
Chateau Doisy-Vedrines - Barsac $39 (375ml)
Chateau de Fieuzal - Pessac-Leognan $45
Chateau Pavie-Macquin - Saint-Emilion $89
Chateau Pontet-Canet - Pauillac $119
Domaine Saint-Pierre - Saint-Julien $79

Please note: The prices above relate to the release price via the BCLDB. The 2007 Bordeaux release is on Saturday, September 25th. Go to their website for more information: http://www.bcliquorstores.com/bordeaux-2007-vintage-wines

Friday, September 10, 2010

Best of BC: Viognier

Viognier is growing in popularity each year in BC with rising sales and expanding acreage. One must only look at the BC Wine Growers Association's classified section to see that more wineries are looking to purchase the grape to get in on the action.

Along with its Rhone Valley red cousin, Syrah, the Okanagan Valley offers many excellent growing areas for Viognier, which needs to fully ripen in order for its tropical fruit and rich characters to shine. Many plots in the Southern parts of the valley offer the ideal conditions. The future is bright for Viognier in the Okanagan Valley.

$20 and below:

Jackson-Triggs Vintners 2010 Silver Series Viognier - $16
A relatively simple Viognier missing the tropical fruit characters of some of the valley's more complex versions, yet, well balanced with solid pear, apple and peach fruit aromas and pleasant mineral flavours on the chewy, off-dry palate.
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Cassini Cellars 2010 Viognier - $19
The concentration is great and the finish is long, as with most Cassini wines, leaving your mouth with plenty of evidence with which to ponder the lingering flavours.
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$30 and below:

Stag's Hollow Winery 2010 Viognier - $22
A textured, rich and creamy example of the Rhone Valley varietal resulting from French oak barrel fermentation and extensive lees contact.
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La Frenz Winery 2011 Viognier - $22
A perennial favourite. Always rich and full-bodied with excellent concentration of fruit flavours and aromas. Nose has classic tropical fruit aromas with orange blossom notes.
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Sandhill 2010 Small Lots Program Viognier - $25
Good concentration on the fruity nose and mineral-filled, dry palate. The finish is very long with lingering orchard fruit and mineral flavours.
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$40 and below:

Le Vieux Pin 2011 Ava - $35
The "Ava", a blend of 78% Viognier, 11% Marsanne and 11% Roussanne offers a slightly muted nose but, there's lost to like with peach and apricot fruit aromas adding to the pleasant, aromatic bouquet.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013 IconWines.ca

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

BC Wine Deal: September 8th, 2010

The following wines have been reduced in price at participating VQA wine shops like The Wine Emporium in Langley. Some reductions are due to new vintages being released and others simply to move stock.

Domaine de Chaberton Shiraz Canoe Cove 2006 was $32.99 IS NOW $25.99
Domaine de Chaberton Syrah 2007 was $29.99 IS NOW $23.99
Mission Hill Oculus 2006 was $70.00 IS NOW $60.00
Prospect Sauvignon Blanc 2009 was $12.99 IS NOW $9.99
Road 13 Chardonnay Jackpot 2007 was $40.90 IS NOW $34.99
Summerhill Organic Pinot Gris 2009 was $22.95 IS NOW $19.95
Township 7 Chardonnay 2007 was $18.49 IS NOW $18.49

Monday, September 6, 2010

Oldfield Series Shines

There are a number of star winemakers in BC. Men and women who make fantastic wines, year-after-year, no matter which winery they move to. There are few, however, who are as synonymous with their winery as Sandra Oldfield of Tinhorn Creek.

Winemaker, and co-owner, Sandra has been making wine in the Southern Okanagan since 1995 focusing on single varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris that grow well on their Golden Mile and Black Sage Bench vineyards. Her eponymous "Oldfield Series" brand is her playground where she can show-off the best-of-the-best of Tinhorn Creek, a winery that may be better known for "good value" than "high quality". I'm happy to report that in tasting the new Oldfield Series releases (October 2010), the wines should be known for both value and quality.

The Oldfield Series offers two single varietals, three blends (one white, one rosé and one red) and one ice wine. The wines are all small lot releases from the best batches and receive the most attention in their oak program. The success that Tinhorn has achieved over the years allows them to release their top wines when they are ready, rather than when they need to sell them. Good for them and good for us.

2007 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red - $29.99
Released in October 2010. A Bordeaux-style blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon with equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The intense nose offers classic Meritage aromas of cassis, dark berries, dark chocolate, toasted oak and licorice with aromatic perfumed notes. The dry palate offers an echo of sweetness from the concentrated dark fruit and toasted oak flavours. Plum, vanilla and a lingering spice compliment and add complexity. The tannins are round and well integrated, framing the fruit flavours nicely. 91+pts
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2007 Oldfield Series Syrah - $29.99
Released in October 2010. An intense nose of dark cherry, vanilla, blackberry jam, pepper and cooking spice. The palate is dry with good tannins and natural acidity - just the right amount of bite. Juicy flavours of dark fruit, vanilla, leather and toasted oak with a chalky, smoky texture. The finish is moderate and balanced with lingering pepper spice. 90pts
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2007 Oldfield Series Merlot - $24.99
Released in October 2010. A stunning nose of dark berries, cherry, slate, gravel, savoury herbs and coffee with big oak and vanilla latte notes. The palate offers well structured, smooth and slightly green tannins with classic dark fruit flavours. Patient decanting will help bring out more layers of complexity revealing more earthy notes along with French oak and bitter chocolate flavours. 88pts
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2009 Oldfield Series 2Bench White - $22.99
Released in June 2010. Given time to open-up (and warm-up - don't serve this gem too cold) the nose blooms, offering aromatic and perfumed aromas of blossoms, ripe pears, apricots, minerals and roasted mellons. The Sauvignon Blanc is evident with typical notes of grass and gooseberry. The palate is round yet crisp and has great acidity with pear and minerality continuing from the nose. The complexity is evident with further expressions of green apple and light lemon. 89pts
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2009 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine - $29.99
Released in August 2010. Intense apricots on the nose with a touch of smoke and lemon rind. Lacks the concentration of flavour and acidity on the palate of the best ice wines, however, it checks all the boxes for an enjoyable experience. Serve on vanilla ice cream to spice-up a basic desert. 86-87pts
Full Review - Coming Soon

The Varietal Series contains six single varietals with both red and white selections. The whites are generally released the following year and the reads are held back for an extra year (at least) of bottle aging. No Pinot Noir this year due to a change in the oaking and aging application. The 2008 Varietal Series Pinot Noir will be released in 2011 and the 2008 Oldfield Series Pinot Noir will be released in 2012. Patients is a virtue.

2008 Merlot - $17.99
Released in October 2010. A dark ruby coloured, crowd-pleasing, smooth-as-can-be Merlot. Less refined on the nose as its big-brother Oldfield Series Merlot and not as complex on the palate, but a fantastically easy-drinking wine. Will pair beautifully with many grilled meat dishes or a deck of cards and good company. 87pts
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2008 Cabernet Franc - $17.99
Release in August 2010. Altogether different than the 2007 version. Less funk and more refinement. Very Loire Valley, cool climate in character with excellent aromatic herbs on the nose. This varietal does very well in the Tinhorn Creek vineyards.Let us be the first to publicly request an Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc. Until then, we'll be happily placated with this tasty red. 87pts
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2009 Chardonnay - $16.99
Released in July 2010. Classic aromas of luscious melons, buttery ice cream and orchard fruit with quiet herbaceous notes. Flavours of pears, apples, sweet pineapple and light toasted oak spice and with piquant, lemony acidity; very refreshing. 87pts
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2009 Pinot Gris - $16.99
Released in July 2010. Green apples, crisp peaches, canned mandarins and a heathy dose of steely mineral notes, an intriguing nose makes. Followed by a medium-plus bodied, creamy textured palate with intense flavours of orchard fruit, melon balls minerality and green-apple tartness. 88pts
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2009 Gewurztraminer - $16.99
Released in May 2010. Aromas of sweet citrus, lychee, honey, pears, rose blossoms and the spice of crushed cardamom shells on the nose. The oily textured, full-bodied palate offers youthful flavours of tropical acidity, lychee, stone fruit, spice and minerality with excellent balance and a long finish. 87pts
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