Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Introducing Baillie-Grohman

When you consider where the BC wine industry may expand to next your first thought isn't likely to be the Creston Valley in the East Kootenays, neither would mine, but we're not Bob Johnson and Petra Flaa, the proprietors of Baillie-Groham winery.

In 2006 they envisioned the valley as a destination for quality VQA wines and purchased the adjacent property to Skimmerhorn Winery and Vineyard who had already proven that grapes for wine production could be grown in the valley but who's impact on the greater BC wine industry has been relatively small.

They've hired an experienced Kiwi winemaker, Dan Barker from Moana Park Winery in Hawkes Bay, who is focused on producing balanced, terroir driven wines. At a recent media luncheon Barker mentioned that the Creston Valley has a similar landscape and terroir to that of the famed Pinot Noir producing New Zealand region of Central Otago. It is no coincidence then, that the estate Pinot Noir from Baillie-Grohman has a similar red fruit and earthiness flavour profile that one expects from Central Otago Pinots.

The 2009 vintage, now available, represents the inaugral release for Baillie-Grohman whose vines were planted in 2007. Judging such a young estate winery one must look at the potential of the site as much as the current product, both of which show promise. First to hit the market are two Alsatian whites, a Pinot Gris and a Gewurztraminer, a Rosé made of 100% Pinot Noir and the "Estate" Pinot Noir (a barrel select "Reserve" Pinot Noir will also be released in the future).

The wines can be characterized in a general sense has having a strong, aromatic nose contrasting their less complex palates. Likely, this has everything to do with the fact that the vines are on their "third leaf" thus far and have a lot of maturing to do before we get more concentrated and complex flavours. However, the winery, and winemaker, should be praised for producing wines that are showing as well as they are so young.

Pinot Gris - $21.99
This wine was the star of the media tasting. Lovely, aromatic nose of perfume and citrus notes. Good balance on the slightly off-dry palate. 50% oak aged has added good texture and allowed the winemaker to dial the sweetness down while keeping some body. Very tasty.
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Gewurztraminer - $19.99
Due to higher production limits for this wine, it will be the easiest one to find being available through select VQA stores. Light brass in colour, fruity and mineral in character with a touch of spice. Off-dry palate has body due to the residual sugar and alcohol (14%). Complexity and acid is a bit low but should pair with Asian food well.
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Blanc-de-Noir Rosé- $19.99
Made in the traditional "Saignée" method from 100% Pinot Noir. Good colour, an enchanting nose and a sweet palate will make it a great hot deck sipper next summer. Massive body may over-power most foods except the spiciest dishes.
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Estate Pinot Noir - $24.99
The oak treatment adds complexity to the nose and palate of this estate-grown Pinot Noir. Dry palate with a good balance of fruit and savoury flavours and smooth tannins. Lacks depth and concentration but shows good promise for the site and nice lingering spiciness on the finish.
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To learn more about the winery, including future releases and availability, visit their website here.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

BC VQA Wine Sales On the Rise

According to a recent BC Wine Institute press release "sales of BC VQA wine have grown by over $40 million over the past 4 years." Great news for fans, supporters and creators of BC wine. I imagine that the increase has a lot to do with more quality-driven wineries joining the fray each year and thus supply has been increased greatly in that time. I'd be curious to know if the increase in revenue matches the increase in new wineries over that time, but in the end what the press release is saying is that folks in BC are buying more BC products and that's good news no matter what a query into the distribution of the revenue would reveal. We're miles away from an Australia-like over-saturation of the market, thus expansion of vineyards, regions and producers is still a very positive thing here in BC.

BC residents are buying so much, in fact, that the press release goes on to state "BC VQA wines are the best selling premium category in BC, ahead of all other countries (imports), and behind only cellared-in-Canada non-VQA wines." Again, a 'good news despite' situation with this statement as it reveals that the highest selling category of wines are the easy-drinking and simple "cellared-in-Canada" wines that got so much press during the Olympics.

Yes, the bad news is this means your friendly neighbors are buying, mostly, plunk. So, why not invite them over (I think I'm safe with writing "them" as they don't likely read wine-related websites) for a nice glass of BC VQA wine one night and educate their palates on the difference? This goes for the excellent non-VQA, but produced from BC fruit exclusively, wines as well like Blackwood Lane or La Frenz Winery. I tried this very exercise recently and blew the minds of my Sawmill Creek-buying neighbors when I poured for them a gorgeous La Frenz Winery 2009 Riesling. They're eyes were literally opened wide.

Good to see one BC industry excelling in this tough economy as "Sales are over $191 million (12 month rolling ended September 2010), an increase of 13.8% over the previous year." Well done you BC Wine consumers you!
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010

Gift Ideas for 2010 Holiday Season

Whether it's for Christmas, Hanukah or any other event like the dreaded late-December birthday, many of us have wine-lovers in our lives to buy for and many Canadian wineries are happy to help with some suggestions on what to get them. Be it a gift basket or wine club, you'll be armed with more than just the ubiquitous wine-bottle shaped gift this year should you venture beyond the norm.

Gift Baskets/Boxes
By late November, many wineries are close to selling out of their portfolio of wines and have to get creative with their in-store (or online) options. You'll see the same few wines packaged in many different ways, often with added treats or wine gadgets.

In Niagara, Stratus Wines offers a plethora of options from gift cards to glassware to vertical bundles of their age worthy wines. The coolest of all is an "Assemblage" gift box that features the amazing 2007 Red and all of its components (Cab Franc, Merlot, Gamay and more) bottled separately. The various gifting options are available here.

In BC, Langley's Blackwood Lane Winery packages their top-end Bordeaux-styled wines The Alliance and The Reference in multiple gift bag options featuring local delicacies and/or fancy wine aerators. Wine shop orders only, but their various gift basket options can be viewed here.

Staying with BC, South Okanagan Valley winery Black Hills Estate, has many options for what they call a "library" release of their tasty 2008 Nota Bene. The beautifully packed boxes are aimed at the corporate market, but they also offer smaller two-packs as well. Online options and ordering can be accessed here.

Wine Clubs
For the more deep-pocketed and/or the organized group purchasers out there you may consider getting your wine-loving loved-one a membership to a top Canadian winery. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving as membership usually entails 3-4 shipments of wine throughout the year. Maybe you'll be invited over to share in one of the shipments?

Niagara's Tawse Winery, the "Winery of the Year" according to Wine Access, offers a wine club where participants enjoy member-only wines, member-only events and member-only tastings. Limited to only 150 people per year. Membership details here.

Cult favourite Poplar Grove Winery, from BC's Naramata Bench, offers a wine club which ships 6 wines in March, July and November. Many unique, small-lot wines are included that can't be purchased elsewhere. Membership details here.

Gift Certificates
Honestly, unless it's to your loved-one's favourite wine shop or liquor store, gift certificates are tricky business. If you're contemplating a gift certificate to a winery you'd better make sure it's truly a favourite of the receiver as they will likely have to put it towards buying a full case of wine unless they are planning a visit in person. The other thing you might want to check before purchasing is if the winery in question has any wine left at this time of the year. A number of favourite cult wineries like La Frenz Winery on the Naramata Bench will sell-out each year of have a very limited selection and won't have anything new until the Spring release. Not a show-stopper by any means, but something to consider.

An early Happy Holidays to all you gift-buying wine enthusiasts out there. You must be a large group as wine sales have risen again this year, especially domestic wines (according to a recent Wine Institute of BC press release). Yeah us!
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Upcoming Wine Tastings in GVRD

Below is a list of upcoming BC wine tastings at some of our favourite VQA stores:

Kensington Square Wines
(6626B Hastings Street, Burnaby)

November 5th, 6th, 2010
Award Winners

November 12th, 13th, 2010
Backyard and Neck of the Woods

November 19th, 20th, 2010
Robin Ridge and Stone Boat

November 26th, 27th, 2010
Wines of the Hills

The Wine Emporium
(#500 - 22259 48th Ave. Langley)

November 6th, 2010
Stag's Hollow

November 13th, 2010
Nk'Mip Cellars

November 20th, 2010
Domaine de Chaberton

November 27th, 2010
Summerhill Winery

Taylorwood Wines
(1185 Mainland St, Yaletown)

November 7th, 2010
Fort Berens

November 14th, 2010
Road 13 Vineyards

November 28th, 2010
Church and State