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

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:

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

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

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:

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

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