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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Score
 -  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.
Icon Score - coming soon

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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Score - coming soon

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).
Icon Score

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summerland's First Wine Awards

This past weekend at the Summerland Fall Fair, the local RE/MAX agency sponsored the appellation's first homegrown wine awards. The judges for the inaugural event were radio/tv personality and wine guru Terry David Mulligan, author and wine critic John Schreiner, winemaker Kelly Symonds and yours truly. In all we tasted 32 wines in 5 flights: Whites Under 10g/l RS, Whites Over 10g/l RS, Rosé/Sparkling, Red Wines and Desert Wines.

The winners:

Bonitas Winery 2008 Pinot Noir - $35
Sonoran Estate Winery 2008 Ehrenfelser Icewine - $29.90 (200ml)

Sumac Ridge Estate Winery 2010 Gewurztraminer - $13.99
SummerGate Winery 2010 Kerner - $19.90
Thornhaven Estate Winery 2008 Evolution - $26.90

Sonoran Estate Winery 2010 Riesling-Gewurztraminer - $17.90
Thornhaven Estate Winery 2010 Gewurztraminer - $17.90
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery 2007 Steller's Jay - $26.99
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery 2008 Black Sage Vineyard Merlot - $19.99
Dirty Laundry Vineyard 2009 Cabernet Merlot - $24.90
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery 2006 Pipe - $19.99 (500ml)

The co-winners of the "People's Choice Award", selected by the patrons of the Fall Fair, went to:

Heaven's Gate Winery 2010 Gewurztraminer
Heaven's Gate Winery 2010 Pinot Gris

- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Essential Reading

For the fledgling wino, reading is essential to furthering one's wine education when access to unlimited funds for travel and bottle purchases isn't available. Realistically, most of us will spend more time reading about the world's iconic wines and wine regions than we will spend experiencing them first hand. Thus, the right book is paramount to making the most of that virtual experience or help you focus in on what your hard earned cash will go towards. With 100's of wine reference material to choose from, where to begin? Below is a list of my favourite wine books in print today.

The Wine Bible
Karen MacNeil's biblically long book is an amazing reference to the world's key wine regions and styles. Where it may lack in up-to-the-minuteness, it booms with essential, unchanging facts about the major Old World and New World regions.

Making Sense of Wine Tasting
Alan Young looks to deconstruct how our senses react to every stimuli that wine offers up. Detailed, very informative and well illustrated.

The Wineries of British Columbia
No one has covered the BC wine industry in more depth than John Schreiner. With each edition he elaborates on the growing BC industry, keeping you up-to-date on the wineries in every viticultural region. Absolutely, the definitive guide to BC wineries.

Pearl of the Côte
Allen Meadows' beautifully photographed account of the often amazing and always much lauded wines of the Vosne-Romanée AOCs. If this book doesn't make you want to shell out for a 1er Cru, than nothing will.

The Billionaire's Vinegar
Not a reference book, rather a non-fiction account of 1980's excess and international forgery within the posh world of wine rarities. Reads like a novel with loads of intriguing information about America's first wine writer, Thomas Jefferson and mind boggling facts about the crazy collectors that have helped drive-up the price of Claret.


Simply the best. No ones covers Bordeaux, the Rhone, Italy and Spain better than Decanter. Subscriptions are very expensive in Canada, but you can purchase one-offs at most Chapters locations. The yearly June edition is a must for all Bordeaux lovers.

Great coverage of both BC and Ontario wines with the occasional story about other emerging regions like Nova Scotia. Buyer's Guide section will help you choose your next bottle (assuming it isn't covered by us, of course).

Friday, September 2, 2011

BC Wine Deal: September 2nd, 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.

Cassini Viognier was $18.90 is now $17.90
Fort Berens Rose was $18.00 is now $15.00
Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve was $18.99 is now $17.99
Inniskillin Chenin Blanc was $16.99 is now $15.99
Jackson Triggs Shiraz Grand Reserve was $25.99 is now $24.99
Jackson Triggs Viognier Private Reserve was $15.99 is now $14.99
Jackson Triggs White Meritage Grand Reserve was $20.00 is now $19.00
Nkmip Merlot QQ was $26.99 is now $24.99
See Ya Later Pinot 3 was $20.00 is now $19.00
Summerhill Baco Noir was $24.95 is now $19.95
Summerhill Pinot Gris Organic was $22.92 is now $19.95