Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Day Wine Selections

"Which wine should I take to Christmas dinner?" "What pairs with turkey?" You may find yourself asking these questions whether you celebrate Christmas on the 24th or 25th or if you're hosting another similarly festive event or holiday dinner. Below are suggestions to help you answer these questions with both international and BC wine selections.

Paired with...

...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.

Int - M. Chapoutier 2009 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut - $15
BC - Stoneboat Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir - $25

...pre-dinner snacks
Something lively and crisp is needed here to wake-up those taste-buds and get them ready for the forthcoming dinnerpolooza.

Int - Lucky Penny 2010 White - $18
BC - Averill Creek Vineyard 2009 Pinot Grigio - $18

...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.

Int - Château Saint-Jean-Des-Graves 2008 Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc - $24
BC - Cassini Cellars 2010 Sauvignon Blanc - $19

...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.

Int - Palo Alto 2009 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc - $14
BC - Young and Wyse Collection 2010 Amber - $20

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

Int - Meiomi 2008 Pinot Noir - $30
BC - JoieFarm 2009 PTG - $27

...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.

Int - Loosen Bros 2008 Riesling "Dr L" - $19
BC - JoieFarm 2010 Riesling - $23

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

Int - Chateau de Fonbel 2006 Grand Cru - $30
BC - Cassini Cellars 2009 Maximus - $29

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

Int - Big House Wines 2009 White - $13
BC - Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2010 Oldfield Series 2Bench White - $23

...dessert
You will want a wine that is sweeter than your dessert.

Int - Errazuriz 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc - $14
BC - Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2010 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine - $30

...post-dinner nibblies
Finish off the meal with something sparkling. It's fun, it's sophisticated and it doesn't have to be expensive.

Int - Yellowglen Non Vintage Pink - $13
BC - Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars N/V Brut - $24

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BC Wine Deal: December 13th, 2011

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

Andrew Peller Cabernet/Merlot was $14.69 is now $13.69
Andrew Peller Merlot was $14.69 is now $13.69
Chaberton Cabernet/Merlot Canoe Cove was $30.00 is now $25.99
Chaberton Chardonnay Canoe Cove was $19.95 is now $17.49
Chaberton Shiraz Canoe Cove was $30.00 is now $25.99
Gehringer Dry Riesling was $14.99 is now $13.99
Jackson Triggs Sunrock Cabernet Sauvignon was $28.99 is now $27.99
Jackson Triggs Shiraz Grand Reserve was $25.99 is now $24.99
Jackson Triggs Cabernet Sauvignon Silver Series was $16.99 is now $15.99
Jackson Triggs Merlot Black Series was $14.99 is now $13.99
Prospect Chardonnay was $12.99 is now $11.99
Prospect Fats Johnson Pinot Noir was $19.99 is now $17.99
Prospect Merlot/Cabernet was $14.99 is now $13.99
Prospect Shiraz was $16.99 is now $15.99
See Ya Later Brut was $22.99 is now $21.99
See Ya Later Pinot Gris was $19.99 is now $18.99
See Ya Later Riesling was $16.99 is now $15.99
Strut Red Over Heels was $13.99 is now $12.99
Strut Risque was $13.99 is now $12.99
Strut Well Heeled was $13.99 is now $12.99
Sumac Ridge Cabernet/Merlot was $14.99 is now $13.99
Sumac Ridge Chardonnay Private Reserve was $13.99 is now $12.99
Sumac Ridge Merlot was $15.99 is now $14.99
Sumac Ridge Stellar's Jay Brut was $24.99 is now $23.99
Township 7 Merlot was $24.99 is now 22.99

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top 25 Value Wines of 2011

We've selected the top 25 value wines for 2011 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 as to what "value" represents.

#1
M. Chapoutier 2009 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut - $15
An easy-drinking, soft-tannin blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan that scores well for its harmony, approachable fruit-forward appeal and long, balanced finish of wild berry and rustic earth characters. Widely available.
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#2
Castaño 2009 Lujuria - $10
Yes, this is a $10 bottle of wine that you will actually want to buy and will likely enjoy - and not just for its value. A blend of Merlot and Monastrell. Widely available.
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#3
Chateau Des Charmes 2008 ‘Old Vines’ Riesling - $17
It's rare to find a Canadian Riesling at this price point that offers the concentration and ageability of this St. David's Bench example. Possibly it's the old vines used to source the grapes that were planted in the early eighties. LCBO.
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#4
Maison Calvet 2009 Reserve - $16
A charming vein of sweetness runs through the nose of this pleasing Bargain Bordeaux. This Merlot heavy blend (80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) should appeal to wine lovers who enjoy New World-leaning Bordeaux wines. Widely available.
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#5
Errazuriz 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc - $13
Late Harvest wines offer an excellent and affordable alternative when the impressive funds needed to purchase icewines aren't available. This wine over-delivers. Widely available.
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#6

Stoneboat Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir - $25
One of only 3 wines above $20 to make the list. Simply the best Pinot Noir available within BC under $30. BC VQA stores.
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#7
L'Etoile de Bergey 2009 Grand Vin - $20
Elegant and polished from the refined, cherry, field berry, cassis and savoury oak infused nose through to the dry, blackberry puree, poppy seed, licorice and rhubarb influenced palate. Costco USA.
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#8
Fairview Cellars 2010 Sauvignon Blanc - $20
More complex than merely a clean, crisp summer sipper with some fullness on the palate from lush, oily Semillon fruit adding a hint of honeydew melon to the mix.
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#9
Snap Dragon Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon - $12
If you like big California Cabs with loads of ripe, dark fruit aromas and flavours with a little residual sugar left in the balance to offset the tannins and acid, than you'll be wise to add this well-priced wine to your rotation. Widely available.
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#10
La Frenz Winery 2009 Montage - $22
What would the Top Value list be without the La Frenz Montage every year? Buy it by the case and make it your house red to the delight of all your guests. Private wine shops.
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#11
St. Hubertus Estate Winery 2009 Dry Riesling - $15
One will be hard pressed to find better value in a BC Riesling. Screw-top enclosure has locked in the freshness. BC VQA stores.
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#12
Chateau Pey La Tour 2009 Grand Vin - $16
The warm and long growing season of 2009 has done wonders for not only Bordeaux’s finest wines but also its most affordable including this blend of 77% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Widely available.
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#13
Henry’s Drive Vignerons 2009 Morse Code Shiraz - $14
A touch of sweetness resides on the tart, yet mild-mannered palate but rest assured we're miles from Yellowtail territory here. Widely available.
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#14
SummerGate Winery 2009 Riesling Two - $20
Sourced from the certified organic Stohler Family vineyard in Summerland, the secret to this Riesling's success is the inclusion of 5% botrytis affected fruit which adds depth and complexity to the nose and mostly-dry palate. Winery direct.
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#15
Big House Wines 2009 White - $13
Despite the grocery list of ingredients, the wine is not overly complex, yet the crisp, fun and easy-drinking character of the wine make it an easy addition to your summer sipping rotation. Widely available.
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See wines 16-25 after the break.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Top 25 Wines of 2011

The format for our Top 25 list changes slightly for 2011 with a new subjective approach taking into account availability, collectability and relevance in the world of wine. For simply the highest rated wines of the year please visit our new Top 25 Rated Wines of 2011 list on IconScores.ca. All wines were released within the calendar year.

Fairview Cellars 2009 The Wrath - $65
Intense, brooding and fantastically complex. The name is a nod to "The Grapes of Wrath" and the hardship it suggests in getting the new vineyard site to the point where it would produce quality fruit.

#2
Glaetzer Wines 2009 Amon-Ra - $85
Near-perfect balance has been achieved by managing extraction creating rounded tannins that confidently support the massive concentration on the palate but never out-shine the fruit characters.
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#3
Blackwood Lane 2007 The Referènce - $90
Full-bodied and powerful while remaining whimsical and refined due to its gorgeous expression of dark fruit, toasted oak and ultra-smooth tannins.
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#4
Painted Rock Estate Winery 2009 Red Icon - $55

The 2009 is a harmonious blend of 30% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot and 1% Syrah delivering massive complexity and concentration that never overloads the dry palate rather evolves slowly in the glass to reveal layers of the flavour profile.
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#5
Franciscan Estate 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - $45
An extracted powerhouse of a Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy blend with 13% Merlot, 3% Syrah and 1% Petit Verdot which retains its feminine charm with intense dark fruit and spot-on oak treatment characters.
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#6
Laughing Stock Vineyards 2009 Portfolio - $45
A stellar example of a Bordeaux inspired Okanagan blend that boasts a dense nose of blackberry and cassis fruit, anise and clove spices followed by an exquisite, powerful, full-bodied palate of similar flavours with added savoury elements of coffee grinds, toasted oak and fresh tobacco leaf.
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#7
Black Hills Estate Winery 2009 Nota Bene - $54
Possibly the best Nota Bene of the past 6 years. Higher extraction and more modern vinification techniques have upped the concentration and increased the potential cellar life for this highly collected blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Franc.
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#8
L'Etoile de Bergey 2009 Grand Vin - $20
A great budget Bordeaux from the amazing 2009 vintage. Elegant and polished from the refined, cherry, field berry, cassis and savoury oak infused nose through to the dry, blackberry puree, poppy seed, licorice and rhubarb influenced palate.
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#9
JoieFarm 2009 Reserve Chardonnay - $30
The top white wine on our list is a perennial favourite. Sits lovingly on your palate with evenly matched energetic acid and glycerol fullness. The long, long finish delights with both savoury oak and ripe pear fruit flavours and just a touch of lingering spice. Utterly charming now, but should age nicely if properly cared for.
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#10
Blackwood Lane 2009 Pinot Noir - $44
Two top ten showings for 2011. Hopefully they can continue the success in 2012 despite the departure of winemaker Charles Herrold. Possibly, the quintessential BC Pinot Noir as it requires no "Burgundy-esk" or "Central Otago-like" descriptor.
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#11
Herder Winery and Vineyards 2008 Josephine - $50
In style and in composition, Herder's "Josephine" confidently conveys the essence of a fruit-forward leaning, Right Bank garagiste wine all the while keeping to its Similkameen roots.
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#12
Painted Rock Estate Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon - $40
"Big" without being jammy and over extracted which presents the fabled Bordeaux varietal in its near-ideal, cool-climate form: fully ripe tannins and expressive dark fruit characters.
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#13
Le Vieux Pin 2008 Équinoxe Syrah - $70
The winery selected 3 barrels as the best of the best for their 2008 Syrah and deemed it worthy of the Équinoxe name. Only 70 cases have been produced.
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#14
Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Mclean Creek Road Chardonnay - $35
As the vines of the Mclean Creek Road Vineyard in Okanagan Falls mature and develop, the Chardonnay produced there is fast becoming the winery's hallmark - its unique addition to the crowded market of high-end BC Chardonnay.
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#15
Cassini Cellars 2009 Maximus - $29
The soft entry on the dry palate evolves quickly to reveal the beast within. Fine, ripe tannins and a sublime texture partner well with concentrated dark fruit, smoky cigar box and toasted oak flavours.
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View #16-25 after the break

Friday, December 2, 2011

2011 Icon Wine of the Year

The Icon Wine of the Year is presented to "the best" wine released in the calendar year of 2011 that combines the following virtues: price, quality, pedigree, collectability, longevity and availability to the wine consuming public in Canada. The winner for 2011 is:

Fairview Cellars 2009 The Wrath
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
$65 - 250 cases - 14.6%
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The "Icon Wine of the Year" selection was not an easy choice for 2011 with many top wines to choose from including the likes of Painted Rock's 2009 Red Icon, Blackwood Lane's 2007 Reference and Glaetzer's 2009 Amon Ra. All are exquisite wines worthy of the title and all scored higher points on IconScores.ca, but it was The Wrath which stood out, leaving a lasting impression of a memorable wine with a great story to tell.

The Wine
Intense, brooding and fantastically complex. This single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon flies in the face of conventional wisdom which suggests that the thick skinned Bordeaux variety can't be properly ripened in BC. Fairview Cellars has had impressive success of ripening the grape year-in, year-out producing popular Cabernets and Cabernet-based blends but this one-off release sets a new standard for a cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon in BC.

The fruit for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine comes from a Golden Mile Bench property that winegrower and winemaker Bill Eggert has been cultivating for 5 years. The name is a nod to "The Grapes of Wrath" and the hardship it suggests in getting the new vineyard site to the point where it would produce quality fruit (or any fruit at all for that matter). It could also refer to the wrath of God due to the seemingly spiteful nature of Bill's run of bad-luck with the site (feasting dear and wrathful hail). 2009 produced the first serviceable crop from the site and the timing couldn't have been better. The combination of the hot season and the vineyard site has produced the ripest Cabernet Sauvignon I have ever tasted in BC.

"Serendipity" may have been a legitimate alternate name for the wine as the hail storm that nearly wiped out the vineyard's fruit managed to have a positive effect on the finished product leaving a highly concentrated crop which contributed to the ripeness.

The Story
The clever label pays homage to a popular version of the front cover of John Steinbeck's classic novel about one family's Depression-era struggle for survival. The fight that Eggert waged against the elements and local wildlife pales in comparison to the tribulations of the fictional Joad family on the road to California to seek out a better life but the counter-culture, challenge the status-quo themes of the book are attributable, if only in a nudging way.

Some say that Cabernet Sauvignon shouldn't be grown in BC and that it should be grafted over to the more trendy Syrah grape. Bill's answer to this challenge is an ultra-ripe Cab with a release price of $65 - can't get much more counter-culture than that.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Also see:
2010 Icon Wine of the Year
2009 Icon Wine of the Year

Sunday, November 27, 2011

$100 on BC Wine

So... you have a budget of $100 and you want to buy some good BC wine. Well, here are a few gifting suggestions on how to spend your money:

The One Bottle Option
Blackwood Lane's 2007 The Reference - $90
It's an experience to drink this wine and whomever you buy it for will undoubtedly tell you all about it (or hopefully share the experience with you). Buy direct from winery in Langley or via a growing number of VQA stores.

The Two Bottle Option
1 bottle of Black Hills Estate Winery 2009 Nota Bene - 53-60$
1 bottle of Laughing Stock Vineyards 2009 Portfolio - $42
Both wines are BIG REDS and very collectable.  A wow factor rating in the realm of "holy crap!..... niiiiiiiice!" will be generated with this gift.

The Three Bottle "Syrah" Option
1 bottle of Cassini Cellars 2009 Syrah - $34
1 bottle of See-Ya-Later Ranch 2009 Rover - $25
1 bottle of Painted Rock Estate Winery 2008 Syrah - $40
The success of Syrah in BC is vintage specific as the youthful vines must battle the harsh winters to survive but these three a real beauties and will be loved by all Syrah/Shiraz lovers on your list.

The Four Bottle "Now and Later" Option
2 bottles of LaFrenz 2009 Montage - $22-26 each.
2 bottles of Fairview Cellars 2009 Two Hoots - $25-30 each.
The recipient can drink one of each right away and have the pleasure of laying the other two down for enjoyment the following year (or longer).

The Four Bottle "Cabernet Franc" Option
1 bottle of Tinhorn Creek 2009 Cabernet Franc - $20
1 bottle of Stag's Hollow 2009 Cabernet Franc - $28
1 bottle of Fort Berens Estate Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc - $25
1 bottle of River Stone Estate Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc - $26
2009 was a fantastic year for BC Cab Franc so why not celebrate with an ensemble gift pack of some of the Province's best?
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Unconventional Wisdom by Elephant Island



Popular Naramata Bench fruit winery Elephant Island is getting in on the vitis vinifera act with two new table wines destined to be instantly popular due to their prophetic-like selection of two of the hottest grape varieties in BC, easy-going presentation and modern, playful packaging.

The "Told You So" white is their floral-nosed Viognier with 10% Sauvignon Blanc added for some extra green apple acidic bite. The "Naysayer" is their Cabernet Franc enhanced with 8% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon to help round out the fruity palate and add a little structure.

Both wines offer good typicity for the varieties with a focus on clean, crisp expressions of fruit without much in the way post-fermentation manipulation. The Cabernet Franc blend was aged in French oak for 15 months, but you won't find yourself describing it as "oaky".

The wines are available from the winery direct and will likely show-up in restaurants around BC due to their high degree of food friendliness. For more information visit the label's website at: http://www.itoldyouso.ca/buy-wisdom/


2010 Told You So - $22.50
With time to open up, the nose blossoms with notes of mandarin orange and honey - a nice preface for the ever-so-slightly sweetened and fruity palate that follows.
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2009 Naysayer - $24.50
Offers ripe red fruit characters on the pleasing nose and vibrant palate with just enough tannins and extraction for lovers of bold reds and for red meat pairings, without the hassle of waiting for the wine to mellow in the cellar.
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- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Meyer Family Vineyards' New Releases

Meyer Family Vineyards is a small boutique winery based in Okanagan Falls whose focus on single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines allows them to showcase the inherent terroir transmitting qualities of these varietals using fruit sourced from two uniquely different proprietary vineyards: Mclean Creek Road in Okanagan Falls and the Old Main Road vineyard on the Naramata Bench. The firm also source fruit from a Kelowna property and create entry-level Okanagan Valley blends which combine fruit from multiple vineyard sites and are designed to be more easily assessable.

New releases include three single vineyard Pinots (two from the same vineyard but from different vintages), two single vineyard Chardonnay and their entry-level Pinot blend. All are previewed below and offer a master class in the effect that climate, soil and viticulture practices have on the same grape varieties (same clones even in some cases), from the same region and from the same vintage. Yes, terroir is for real.

Missing from the list of the new releases is the premium Micro Cuvee Chardonnay which, despite the $60 price tag, is a good seller for the winery. As proprietor JAK Meyer notes, "We decided not to do a Micro Cuvee for 2010 as we could not find anything or any barrels that stood out enough and our plan always was only to make it if warranted."

He went on to mention that he hopes to find a few exceptional barrels from the 2011 vintage that will meet their high standards for the Cuvee, noting "2011 proved to be an interesting year. Lots of concern that we would not have enough time for fruit to ripen but the frost never arrived and we were able to leave the fruit out there well into October... in a nutshell good fruit, likely a little less acidity this year than previous but good flavours."

The Pinots
2010 Reimer Vineyard - $40
This delightful purple-ruby hued Pinot Noir begins with a gorgeous nose worth taking the time to enjoy before moving on to the concentrated, tart palate. Rich, round aromas of dark cherry, raspberry seeds, ripe plum, vanilla, dried flowers and a hint of oak mingle nicely in the glass creating a pleasing bouquet that will make you smile.
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2009 Mclean Creek Road - $40
Robust, concentrated and refreshing. The 2009 vintage of the Mclean Creek Road Pinot Noir yielded just 48 cases but every bottle packs a punch with ripe aromas of cherry, blackberry, plum, licorice, fennel, cedar, cooking spice and minerality.
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2010 Mclean Creek Road - $40
The style of the 2010 Mclean Creek Road Vineyard Pinot Noir reflects the vintage truthfully: lean, mean and very flavourful. Strong minerality and plenty of acid makes your mouth stand-up and take notice, en guard even, but then the intense red fruit flavours arrive and calm the precedings through to the long, refreshing finish with lingering tartness.
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2010 Okanagan Valley - $25
A credit to the blending skills of the winemaking team that despite the cooler 2010 vintage they have pieced together a warm and hearty palate of upfront, juicy red fruit flavours and forest floor notes from grapes sourced throughout the valley.
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The Chardonnays2010 Tribute Series - $35
Year-in, year-out the Tribute Series from Meyer Family Vineyards captures the essence of Naramata Bench Chardonnay: an intense and juicy orchard fruit profile with crisp stonefruit notes.
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2010 Mclean Creek Road - $35
Despite the late ripening in 2010, the grapes managed to retain their acidity and developed more complex character: green apple, lemon, pineapple, spice, hay, butter, lees and oak are all on offer.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tinhorn plus Le Gavroche equals Yum

On Wednesday night Le Gavroche welcomed Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and 50-60 patrons, employees and media to taste the culinary exploits of Vancouver's longest-standing French restaurant paired with wines from Tinhorn's premium "Oldfield Series".

Face time with the always entertaining Sandra Oldfield, Tinhorn's winemaker and CEO, was plentiful. She's as good a story teller as she is a winemaker - a common trait I've observed amongst BC's top winemakers. Self effacing and quick to laugh, Oldfield can charm the critique right out of you - luckily, I'd previously reviewed the wines (see details here or take the links below).

The goal for any winemaker's dinner is to showcase the personalities involved and to inform interested parties of the goings-on at the winery - plus the occasional tidbit of news about future releases. The meal itself is designed to showcase, first the wines, and secondly, the skills of the restaurant's chef. The menu was as follows:

Canapés
Crown Royal Smoked Salmon, Crème Frâiche
Salmon Caviar and Green Onion Pancake
Roasted Garlic and Brie Cheese Purses
Smoked Veal Tongue and Onion Confit
Oldfield Series 2010 2Bench White 2010

The verdict: The various bits and bites were tasty and fairly low key. A good match for the charming 2Bench White which delivers good complexity in its own subtle way.

1st course
Dungeness Crab, Prawn stuffed Squid, Crab and Cognac Sauce
Oldfield Series 2010 Rosé

The verdict: The amazing thing about Rosé is its ability to pair with just about everything. The Tinhorn 2010 version is so fragrant and sweet smelling that this added a lovely aromatic element to the dish. Fans of this wine will be happy to hear that the winery is raising the production from about 200 cases to nearly 1300 cases for 2011.

2nd Course
Duck Confit Cannelloni, Cassis Sauce
Oldfield Series 2008 Syrah

The verdict: Very tasty dish, however, it was served back-to-back with another brown sauce dish leaving the visual element of eating a bit bland. In terms of the wine match, I found myself wishing that the 2008 Pinot Noir had been paired with the course to better highlight the fabulous duck confit.

3rd Course
Salt Spring Island Lamb Chops, Sauce Verde, Tomato and Basil Braised Lamb, Meatballs, Vegetable Couscous
Oldfield Series 2008 2Bench Red

The verdict: The best pairing of the evening with the Meritage flavours and tannins supporting the dual protein on offer.

4th Course
Red Wine and Cinnamon Poached Apples, Apple Pie Ice Cream
Oldfield Series 2010 Kerner Icewine

The verdict: A very tasty desert with excellent acid, cream and sweet notes that paired nicely with similar characters of the Kerner icewine. However, the caramel crackle that accompanied the desert, although dramatic and pretty, was far too sweet and broke the wine pairing rule that the desert shouldn't be as sweet as the wine.

Any critique offered is just nit-picky stuff and overall, a fantastic evening was had by all. Good food, good wine and good company.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

BC Wine Deal: November 9th, 2011

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

Inniskillin Chardonnay Reserve was $13.99 is now $12.99
Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon was $16.99 is now $15.99
Inniskillin Merlot Reserve was $16.99 is now $15.99
Inniskillin Pinot Blanc Reserve was $13.99 is now $12.99
Meyer Chardonnay Maclean Creek Vineyard was $35.00 is now $30.00
Fork In The Road Red was $19.99 is now $18.99
Fork In The Road White was $17.99 is now $16.99
Road 13 Honest John Red was $19.99 is now $18.99
Salt Spring Island Pinot Noir Reserve was $34.97 is now $29.90
Township 7 Chardonnay was $19.99 is now $17.99

PS - Happy birthday to both my dad and brother!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Painted Rock Scores Big

Momentum in the wine industry can be a tricky thing to gauge. New wines are generally released only twice a year in the Spring and/or Fall and to truly judge a winery's progress you have to evaluate multiple vintages of a product that may incubate for two or three years prior to its release. But every now and then a winery, winemaker or even a particular wine jolts from the industry peripheral into the mainstream, catching the attention of the public. Painted Rock Estate Winery, a favourite of restaurants and serious collectors since it opened in 2009, seems poised to take the next step towards  national recognition and familiarity with impressive results at the 2011 Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards.

The boutique sized winery achieved a perfect 100% accuracy with the 13 wines it entered scoring 13 medals including 3 gold medals. The results propelled the firm to the #3 spot on the magazine's list of the Top 25 Wineries of Canada. A truly amazing result as the Wine Access list is scored on the number of points achieved by each submission - a format that favours the larger wineries with a large portfolio of wines to select from.

To pull-off the feat, the winery, which only produces 5 wines each year, acted within the rules of the competition and submitted multiple vintages of its flagship Red Icon and other releases which can still be found on sale within the province. The practice may be hard for the winery to duplicate next year as the national exposure is sure to increase sales and, likely, wipe out the older vintages. However, proprietor John Skinner hinted recently that some more single varietal wines from the 2010 vintage may be in the cards for 2012 depending on what makes it into the final blend for their Bordeaux-inspired Red Icon.

The newly released wines are impressive and sure to, once again, be snapped up by BC's restaurants. To a hold of a few bottle for yourself or your collection, contact the winery direct (here) or keep an eye out for their arrival at your local VQA store.

2010 Chardonnay - $30
The best Chardonnay yet from Painted Rock is chalk full of character with a lovely, sensual balance of oak and sweet orchard fruit on the nose and palate.
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2009 Merlot - $40
Despite the success (and relative higher scores) of most Bordeaux varietals from the hot 2009 Okanagan season, the Painted Rock Merlot doesn't manage to capture the intensity and charm of the 2008 vintage. Though, we're comparing a stellar wine with an above average one - nothing to complain about.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon - $40
Delivers a dazzling display of complexity and depth. By far, the winery's best yet which is saying a lot considering the 2008 vintage won a Lieutenant Governor's Award of Excellent in 2010. This will be a hard wine to track down unless you order direct.
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2009 Red Icon - $55
The 2009 is a blend of 30% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot and 1% Syrah delivering massive concentration and complexity. California cult blends come to mind while tasting.
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Note: The 2009 Syrah was not available for tasting at the Painted Rock release party.

 -  Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cassini Cellars' Line-Up Expands

Oliver/Osoyoos boutique winery Cassini Cellars is slowly turning into the Lafrenz of the south with a growing line-up of wines each performing well with excellent typicity and signature character.

The line-up expands this Fall to include the Golden Mile Bench winery's first single varietal Cabernet Franc from the excellent 2009 vintage. As well as a new entry-level Pinot Noir from the cool, temperamental 2010 vintage.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Cassini Cellars is certainly a name to get acquainted with. Proprietor Adrian Capeneata is continually refining his skills and style as the head winemaker for his growing operation which is making a name for itself producing both quality, approachable wines and cellar worthy premium fare. Since winning "Best New Winery" at the 2010 BC Wine Awards, Cassini hasn't looked back becoming an award attracting darling. For 2011 the winery won the #14th spot on Wine Access Magazine's list of the Top 25 Wineries of Canada. Impressive. And so are their wines.

Available now:

2010 Sauvignon Blanc - $19
A Sauvignon Blanc hinting towards a New Zealand style with mouth-watering acidity, grassy character and crisp minerality.
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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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2010 Chardonnay - $19
The mouth feel is fairly lush and full for a Chardonnay that only sees a kiss of oak (just 6 weeks in new French oak barrels). The oak succeeds in adding a nice undertone of spice and vanilla bean to the otherwise fruit forward presentation.
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2010 Red Carpet Pinot Noir - $20
The "Red Carpet" Pinot Noir is Cassini's entry-level Pinot produced with minimal oak aging and with the casual meal or get together in mind.
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2009 Reserve Chardonnay - $29
 delightful, fully oaked Chardonnay from a concentrated, hot vintage that manages to remain fairly bright and fruity - not burdened with the chunky nature of lesser, over-oaked Chards.
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2009 Reserve Pinot Noir - $29
Much more complex than the new Red Carpet Pinot Noir. A light-in-the-mouth weight and fluid texture is followed by a long, tart finish with lingering oak spice.
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2009 Malbec - $29
Smooth, integrated tannins are a touch green and won't "ripen" over time, but don't distract from the enjoyment. Lively acid and light mineral notes create a cool and refreshing mouth feel.
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Soon to be released:

2009 Maximus - $29
Silver medal winner at the 2011 Canadian Wine Awards. Perhaps, not as "big" as the 2008 overall, but more refinement on the palate is a welcomed attribute of this new vintage. Based on the pedigree of previous releases and the new use of a real cork enclosure, development seems like a safe bet along with a long lifespan of nearly ten years.
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2009 Syrah - $34
Gold medal winner at the 2011 Canadian Wine Awards. Tannins are plentifully but not intrusive, adding to the texture and longevity of this Syrah.
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2009 Cabernet Franc - $TBA
Silver medal winner at the 2011 Canadian Wine Awards. A delicious Cabernet Franc that tastes like liquid Christmas cake. A great rainy Fall/Winter treat to warm up the senses.
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 -  Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series

The first word that comes to mind when envisioning Tinhorn Creek remains "value" for me. No one else in the valley can top the consistent value-for-money-to-quality ratio executed by Tinhorn Creek with their impressive line-up of varietal wines priced at $20 and below. Yet, each Fall I am happily reminded with the release of the winery's Oldfield Series red wines that there is much more to the Golden Mile institution than simply well-made, well-priced crowd-pleasers. They also produce challenging, high-quality, refined wines which, ironically, do nothing to shake the winery's "value" association for me due to their relative affordability.

The Oldfield Series red wines are afforded plenty of time in barrel and an impressive 18 months in bottle prior to being released. Essentially, Tinhorn has done the aging work on your behalf leaving you free to open them upon release knowing that you won't cut short the potential for the wines growth if you hold on to it, just a little bit longer.

Stelvin cap enclosures are used for all Tinhorn Creek wines (with Icewine and Late Harvest wines being the only exceptions) to lock in the freshness and avoid any faults from extensive aging and tainted cork. To some, this may lessen the appeal of these high-end and cellar worthy wines as the screw top enclosures have yet to fully break-down the stigma attributed to cheap, bulk wines. A perception I hope changes soon as most wines, even those purchased to adorn home cellars, will be consumed in the 5 years anyway. The Oldfield Series wines will make you a believer.

2008 Oldfield Series Merlot - $25
Big tannins, due to a prolonged jam session in oak, blend nicely with juicy, ripe mixed berry flavours and sultry, savoury notes of spice and smoke.
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2008 Oldfield Series Syrah - $35
Bold yet refined, extra spicy Syrah with a medium-plus body - one that leans more Rhone Valley than Barossa Valley.
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2008 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red - $30
A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc delivering a potpourri of savoury and fruit elements, wrapped-up in a mouth-watering, sweet spice and sandpaper sprinkled texture.
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Oldfield Series wines released earlier in the year:

2010 Oldfield Series 2Bench Rosé - $22 (sold out)
The 100% Cabernet Franc adds seductive crushed flower aromatics and complexity to the wine's classic rosé nose of Maraschino cherry, cranberry, grape skins and raspberry seeds. Certainly a contender for the top rosé in BC. Available via the winery's "Crush Club" and tasting room only.
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2010 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine - $30 (200ml)
Nice acidity is present for 2010 adding essential tartness to counter-balance the full bodied, sweet palate oozing with concentrated fruit and a splash of savoury notes, adding complexity.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stag's Hollow Fall Releases


Above the sleepy town and a short drive from Highway 97 you'll find a few wineries nestled together up in the hidden valley and slopes of Okanagan Falls including Stag's Hollow who have recently released their latest crop of wines for the Fall.

Stag's Hollow's wine list includes both reliable single varietal and blends plus experimental small-lot one-offs to keep the collection fresh and intriguing. This Fall we're treated to some returning champions and the latest expression of winemaker Dwight Sick's love for everything Rhone.

2010 Simply Noir - $20
Your dinner party shopping list is complete with this unique blend of 38% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc and 30% Pinot Noir with the Merlot providing dark berry flavours and tannin structure, the Cab Franc providing flashy, aromatic character and the Pinot Noir rounding-out and lightening the palate creating a softer entry and contributing welcomed spice.
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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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2009 SHV Pinot Noir - $25
The fruit aromas are accompanied by savoury, earthy notes of mushrooms, forest floor and smoke creating a developing bouquet that deserves time to evolve in the glass before drinking.
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2010 GVM - $28
Winemaker Dwight Sick continues his love affair with all things Rhone with the small lot GVM release. A blend of a blend of 66% Grenache Blanc, 23% Viognier and 11% Marsanne reminiscent of white Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
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2009 Cabernet Franc - $28
Another excellent Cabernet Franc release from the exception 2009 vintage which seems to have been ideal for this Bordeaux varietal. The balance is spot on with good acidity and a long finish with lingering Cab Franc funk and a plash of spice.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Sunday, October 9, 2011

BC Wine Deal: October 9th, 2011

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

Arrowleaf Solstice Gewurztraminer was $20.00 is now $16.99
Open Cabernet/Merlot was $14.99 is now $13.99
Open Merlot was $14.99 is now $13.99
Open Sauvignon Blanc was $14.99 is now $13.99
Rigamarole Red was $14.99 is now $13.99
Rigamarole Rose was $14.99 is now $13.99
Rigamarole White was $14.99 is now $13.99
See Ya Later Ranch Brut was $23.99 is now $22.99
Sumac Ridge Cabernet/Merlot was $14.99 v $13.99
Sumac Ridge Chardonnay Private Reserve was $13.99 is now $12.99
Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Merlot was $15.99 is now $14.99
Sumac Ridge Stellar's Jay Brut was $26.99 is now $24.99
Township 7 Sauvignon Blanc was $18.99 is now $17.49

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Colour... A deep, dark, brilliant ruby. Part 2

Continued from Part 1 Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Highlights from the recent Fall BC VQA trade tasting.

Meritage Blends
It seems that nearly every winery in BC these days is possessed to produce a big, Bordeaux-styled blend. Why? I don't know. Could be the competitive nature of the personalities involved in the wine business. Could be that the influence of Bordeaux is so far reaching that most folks simply find comfort in the familiar. Or, it could simply be that Merlot and the Cabernets go really well together, especially when they get dressed up in fine oak staves and accessorize with a touch of Petit Verdot here and dab of Malbec there.

Blackwood Lane 2007 Alliance
$60 14.5%
Available now. Big, juicy, refined and very complex, but a slight funkiness on the nose will have you seeking out more of the still available 2006 vintage.

Black Widow 2008 Hourglass
$36 14.9%
Available now. A blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc which delivers a port-like intensity with a little too much candied fruit on the nose.

Cassini Cellars 2009 Maximus
$28 14.9%
Available Oct 1st. Perhaps, not as "big" as the 2008 overall, but more refinement on the palate is a welcomed attribute of this new vintage. Based on the pedigree of previous releases and the new use of a real cork enclosure, development seems like a safe bet along with a long lifespan of nearly ten years.

Church and State 2008 Quintessential
$50 14.5%
Available in early October. Church and State's signature blend (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant) is amazingly consistent year to year. Classic new world, fruit-forward, beast of a wine, yet refined and elegant. Finish goes on and on.

Ex Nihilo 2007 Night
$40 14.5%
Available now. Tannins are a bit green, but still a very tasty blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc with good concentration or dark fruit characters and oak which is ready to go. No bottle aging required.

Fairview Cellars 2009 The Bear
$35 14.9% 300 cases
Available now. The best Bear since 2005. Eclipses the fantastic 2008 vintage with more concentration and attitude. Uses all 5 Bordeaux varietals for added complexity.

Noble Ridge 2008 Reserve Meritage
$30 14.8%
Available now. New for 2008, Noble Ridge has released two Meritage blends. A $20 entry level, Stelvin capped, Merlot driven blend with entry-level intrigue. And this "Reserve" Meritage at $30 which sees better barrels and better fruit resulting in a wine that's miles better than its little brother.

Painted Rock 2009 Red Icon
$55 14.3%
Not yet released. We don't just love this wine for its bold and familiar name. We love it for its uniqueness in the world of cookie-cutter big reds. The first vintage (2007) had Petit Verdot as the leading grape in the blend... yeah, Petit Verdot! None of the corporate wineries would ever try that. (And to be fair, I doubt proprietor John Skinner would ever again either... the bane of originality.) These bold risks have mostly all paid off delivering a unique blend from a picture perfect vineyard offering honest vintage variation. The 2009 is a blend of 30% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot and 1% Syrah delivering massive concentration and complexity. California cult blends come to mind while tasting. Well done Team Painted Rock!

See-Ya-Later Ranch 2008 Ping
$27 14.5%
Available now. Sturdy, decent complexity on offer here in this Merlot-leading blend. Not as "big" as the 2006 version, but juicier and more approachable. Very well priced.

Seven Stones 2008 Meritage
$33 14.4%
Available now. Blend of 58% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot produced with fruit grown in the Similkameen Valley. A beautiful nose greets you then a soft and very smooth palate brings it home. Ready to go now so enjoy it while you're waiting for the Painted Rock Icon to mellow.

Tinhorn Creek 2008 2 Bench Red
$30 15%
Available Oct 1st. May not be the Master of Balance that was the 2007 edition, but the 2008 still delivers. A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc which delivers a potpourri of savoury and fruity characters wrapped in a mouth-watering, sweet oak and very dry palate.

The Rest
A few other wines from the trade tasting worth mentioning should you be looking for something other than a Meritage blend or Cabernet. All reds.

Blackhills Estate 2009 Syrah
$30 14.1%
Available now. Soft, spicy, nice blend of old world texture and weight with new world fruit. Long finish. Very good first vintage for the boutique winery. 2% Viognier added for extra aromatics and colour.

Churh and State 2009 Syrah
$35 14.5%
Available in early October. Another solid south okanagan valley Syrah produced from the winery's Coyote Bowl vineyard offering good typicity within an easy-drinking presentation.

La Stella 2008 Maestoso
$90 14.7% 150 cases
Not yet available. A blockbuster of a wine filled with explosive action sequences and romantic intrigue. Wow! Priced for serious collectors only.

Road 13 2009 Merlot-Syrah
$40 14.5% 300 cases
Available now. As advertised, a blend of Merlot (74%) and Syrah (25%) with 1% of Viognier added for good measure. Unique. Nice and spicy. Not a "big" red wine, more elegant and reserved, but very complex.

Keep a look out for full reviews of these wines on http://www.iconscores.ca/ during the Fall as the wines get released.
 -  Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Colour... A deep, dark, brilliant ruby. Part 1

A deep, dark, brilliant ruby...

Was the predominant appearance note for the wines I gravitated towards at the BC Wine Institutes's annual Fall VQA tasting event, Colour. Ripe, intriguing and world class Cabernets and blends from the 2009 vintage caught my attention early and became my focus for the rest of the afternoon.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is a tough grape to ripen in BC, but a few producers can produce excellent cool-climate versions in most years. With the hot 2009 vintage, the field was widened to include a few more participants who managed to avoid the damage of an early frost in October. When it's ripe, it's right! These are soooo right!

Church and State 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
$35 14.5% 300 cases
Available in early October. Coyote Bowl vineyard. Juicy, ripe and very accessible. Perhaps, not the cellar dweller of my other Cabernet recommendations but an excellent wine in its own right.

Fairview Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
$40 14.7% 160 cases
Sold-out at the winery. The 2009 vintage yielded the best Cabernet grapes from Bill Eggert's home vineyard in many years. So pleased was he with the results that a true Reserve level Cab will be coming out in future years, thus, the production is way down on his "normal" Cab. Fairview fans, of course, know it's anything but normal. Massive tannins with this one requiring 3+ years of bottle age.

Fairview Cellars 2009 The Wrath
$65 14.6% 250 cases
Available now. Wow was my first and nearly only note as my brain was too distracted by this incredible wine which offers an ultra-ripe and concentrated palate and smoky, sexed-up nose. Priced for collectors at $65 but oh-so worth the price.

Painted Rock 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
$40 14.5% 150 cases
Not yet released. Rivals the Fairview Cabernet's ripeness and concentration but eclipses everyone with a dazzling display of complexity and depth. By far, the winery's best yet.

SpierHead 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
$33 13.6% 210 cases
Available now. More fruit forward than the others listed here. Lower alcohol and a touch more residual sugar create a softer expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that is ready to drink now.
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Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc has become the latest front-runner in the race to become BC's signature grape - well, red grape anyway. By no means is this an official event that wineries are actively participating in - it's completely made-up by the wine media in order to help define to the world what makes BC's various wine producing regions unique. Yet, the quality on display at Colour does suggest a growing love affair with the lesser-know Bordeaux varietal both within the industry and with consumers. So, maybe we finally have a winner?

Cassini Cellars 2009 Reserve Cabernet Franc
$40 (est) 14.8%
Not yet released. The South Okanagan has a new Cab Franc powerhouse with the release of Cassini's first single varietal offering of the aromatic grape. Displays good typicity for BC Cab Franc with a new level of concentration and power. One to watch out for.

Church and State 2009 Cabernet Franc
$35 14.5% 300 cases
Available in early October. Only produced in exceptional years

SpierHead 2009 Cabernet Franc
$30 13.5% 71 cases
Available now. Follows house style of soft, elegant and drinkable now. Comes off like a cheeky Pinot Noir with med body and a watery, smoky texture. Good minerality.

Sumac Ridge 2009 Black Sage Bench Cabernet Franc
$20 13.5%
Available now. Easy going, typical and well-priced.

Tinhorn Creek 2009 Cabernet Franc
$20 148%
Available now. Early candidate for value wine of the year. 2009 was a banner year for the Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc with offers delicious, ripe dark fruit matched with thick, savoury dark chocolate, spice and oak characters.
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 -  Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Go to Part 2 Meritage Blends and The Rest

Bordeaux 2008: Futures VS. Liquor Board

The ordering of Bordeaux Futures, the practice of purchasing wine still in barrel and two years prior to release, gives one a limited, yet, intriguing insight into the complex and sometimes comical world of government regulations imposed on liquor and wine procurement in the province of British Columbia.

There are no guarantees when purchasing Futures. The wine, which, unless you're an international critic or a diligent wine merchant, you've never tasted, is bought and paid for based on the tasting notes of others or with a collection in mind. Some may say for "investment", but since it's illegal for consumers in BC to resell their collections, any investment "worth" is essentially, incalculable.

When you receive your wine you won't know if it's as good as advertised until you actually open and try a bottle, which for some wines will be unlikely for many years, if ever, due to the collectible nature of Bordeaux and the personal (or perceived) sense of pride that accompanies a collection of any kind.

It's a game. A fun game for some, which should be treated with the same degree (or lack there of) of importance associated to any elective pastime.

If, it's a game as I've suggested, then with whom are you competing? The BC Liquor Distribution Board. Which, with their formidable size (bureaucracy) and unpredictable moves (right to change prices on a whim), provides a worthy opponent.

How did Futures fare in 2008? You be the judge.

We purchased the following wines via Marquis Wine Cellars' annual Bordeaux Futures offering. First amount is the Futures price from Marquis and the (bracketed) figure is the current BCLDB price as part of this weekend's release event.

Château Calon-Segur $90 ($78)
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou $200 ($199)
Château Leoville-Barton $100 ($98)
Château Montrose $150 ($159)
Château Pavie Macquin $95 ($98)
Château Pontet-Canet $140 ($188)
Vieux Château Certan $130 ($150)

Where we scored highest in 2008 was with the Pontet-Canet and the VCC whose brands have both risen dramatically in recent years and for which the current price could be attributable. As I said above, there are no guarantees.

Did we destroy our opponent? No. Worth a victory lap? No, but I do feel like a winner for 2008 and I've enjoyed playing the game. How will 2009 and 2010 go? It's anybody's guess.
  -  Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Thursday, September 22, 2011

BC Wine Deal: September 22nd, 2011

The following wines have been reduced in price at participating VQA wine shops and BCLDB stores. Some reductions are due to new vintages being released soon and others are simply to help move stock.

Cedar Creek Ehrenfelser was $18.90 is now $17.90
Clos du Soleil Signature Red was $38.92 is now $36.90
Le Vieux Pin Petit Rouge was $24.00 is now $20.90
Prospect Shiraz was $16.99 is now $15.99
Prospect Chardonnay was $12.99 is now $11.99
Fork in the Road White was $17.99 is now $15.99
Rigamarole Rose was $14.99 is now $12.99
White Bear Sauvignon Blanc was $13.99 is now $12.99

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Case for Okanagan Goo

Could Gewurztraminer be the definitive white varietal of the Okanagan? We think it could...

However, 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 BC. Rather, we desire to highlight the lesser-publicized varietal that is our small-bunched and blue-ish hued friend, Gewurztraminer.

One cannot define, with a single sentence, the Okanagan Valley's climate and selection of diverse terroir except, perhaps, to state that in many areas it is perfect for growing Gewurztraminer. However, does this statement alone make Gewurztraminer the region's signature white varietal?No, of course not. It takes a group of talented winemakers to work with the grape and produce the aromatic, joyful and 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 table wines to sweet aperitif wines, showcase the uniqueness of each planted area in the valley and reflect the winemaker's vision for the final product.

The following Gewurztraminers represent our current favourites of the varietal on offer in BC today:

2010 Sumac Ridge Estate Winery - $15
A recent gold medal winner at the inaugural Summerland Fall Fair Wine Awards. Offers testbook typicity for straightward, non-flashy, dry BC Gewurztraminer and an unbeatable price point.
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2010 Oak Bay Estate Winery - $16.50
Classic Alsatian "Goo" flavours of lychee, spice and citrus fruits follow on the well-balanced, full-bodied palate with a touch of residual sugar, good acidity and a long finish with lingering peppery lemon.
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2010 Tinhorn Creek Vineyards - $18
The 2010 vintage was good to Tinhorn Creek's Gewurztraminer vines. The long, cool season provided the brisk nights needed to produce ample acid in the tightly bunched grapes resulting in a refreshing and relatively crisp wine for the notoriously low-acid producing varietal.
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2010 Thornhaven Estate Winery - $18
Recent silver medalist at the Summerland Fall Fair Wine Awards excels, year-in year-out, at the popular, sweeter, lush style of BC Goo.
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2010 Desert Hills Estate Winery - $23
Benefiting from the cooler than average 2010 growing season, the notoriously low-acid Gewurztraminer grape has outshone many of its much more popular white-varietal cousins in that vintage year. Matching its juicy, lush tropical fruit characters with tart, acidic notes rarely achieved (naturally).
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So, is Gewurztraminer the Okanagan's signature white wine? Well maybe, maybe not. It would be hard to say that the region's best Chardonnays and Rieslings wouldn't compete for that title as well. However, many of the elite Chardonnays command a premium price whereas BC's top Gerwurztraminers are almost always $20 and under. All of the wines featured in this article are below this price-point and many outshine Chardonnay of the same price. One could therefore propose that Gewurztraminer is "BC's signature budget white wine" or "BCSBWW", but that's a terrible title. We'll keep signing BC Gewurztraminer's praise and you can decide for yourself.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca