Monday, February 27, 2012

#VPIWF: 10 Wines 2 Try

Veterans of the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival will attest - you must have a game plan when entering the 50,000+ square foot tasting room. Pros will sometimes split whites and reds over two days of tastings, while others make focus on one or two varieties or styles. Whatever the plan, the reality is most are lucky to taste 40-50% of the wines on offer over multiple visits. If you're neither a wine professional nor a veteran of the festival than let me suggest 10 wines to seek out while you attack the room and, ideally, taste many more. Think of this list as the reason to keep moving and exploring the nearly 2000 wines on offer.

1: Chile - Viña Montes - "Montes Folly"
Chile is the Global Focus for the 2012 festival and talk of the emergence of Chilean Syrah will be buzzing around the tasting floor. None is better than the Folly. Elegant and superbly refined. Tasting notes on the 2006 vintage.

2: Italy - Antinori "Tignanello"
Seek this wine out for two reasons. 1) It's a $100+ bottle of wine that once you taste you'll think to yourself, "Yes it is!" and 2) The Tignanello is the quintessential Super Tuscan that will give you a glimpse as to what all the fuss is about with this popular collectors choice.

3: Canada - Painted Rock Estate Winery - "Red Icon"
If time allows then by all means try the complete Painted Rock portfolio, you won't be disappointed. However, if you have time for only one wine then it must be the Red Icon. It's a worthy member of this top 10 list for its unique blend and gorgeous refinement. A pricey wine to be sure, but one you just might seek out at the BC Liquor Store attached to the festival tasting floor. Tasting notes on the 2008 and 2009 vintages.

4: Australia - Yalumba "FDR1A"
Clearly, this is not Pendfolds' Bin 389, but it is a great Aussie Cab-Shiraz blend with a long history dating back to 1974 when the first "Fine Dry Red 1A" was released by Australia's oldest winery, Yalumba. Force your way up to the front to get poured a sip of Australian history.

5: USA - Stag's Leap Wine Cellars - "Artemis"
The Artemis is a blended Cabernet Sauvignon from multiple Napa Valley lots (only a few from the famed Stag's Leap District) which may not offer a single terroir experience but does deliver constantly expressive fruit, excellent balance and elegant structure year-in, year-out. Yummy, chewy Chardonnays are also worth a taste.

6: Australia - Majella Wines "Sparkling Shiraz"
Most folks like their bubbles blond and French but the growing trend of pink Champagne and Cava may help to bring the fizz drinking public round to Australia's own, Sparkling Shiraz. The Majella offering is made in the traditional method of Champagne and finds the balance of representing the characters of a fine Shiraz with that of a cold, refreshing drink. Must be tasted to be believed. Notes on their 2005 release.

7: Canada - Mission Hill Family Estate - "Oculus"
The 2007 Oculus was worth the hype. When I first tasted it at the 2011 festival it blew me away with its concentration and complexity. Unfortunately, the winery decided to only make it available through their own wine shop and thus I have not tasted it since, nor have I been able to review it. No news yet on which vintage the Kelowna winery will be pouring of their flagship wines. Tasting notes on the 2004, 2005 and 2006 vintages.

8: France - M. Chapoutier "La Bernardine"
Michel Chapoutier has a growing portfolio of wines with new entries from lesser-know regions like Côtes-du-Roussillon, but his heart remains in the Rhone Valley. La Bernardine is a fixture of the portfolio and offers excellent typicity for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Look for subtle yet complex, cassis and plum fruit with garrique, spice and earth notes.

9: Canada - Tawse Winery - Cabernet Franc
There really isn't anything that Tawse Winery, the sole Ontario firm to make the trip this year, can't do well-to-great. For me it's a toss-up as to what they truly do "best" between Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc but since many regions and appellations make excellent Chardonnay, my suggestion is to make sure and try the Tawse Cabernet Franc - a uniquely Canadian example of the Bordeaux variety. Preferably, request to taste the Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc.

10: USA - Chateau Ste. Michelle - "Eroica"
Produced in the Columbia Valley, the Eroica Riesling is a joint venture with Germany's Dr. Loosen. One can only hope that Chateau Ste. Michelle will be wise enough to bring this amazing Riesling with them to the festival. Truly one of the best Rieslings I have yet tasted. Notes on the 2008 and 2009 vintages.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sometimes They Get It Right

BCLDB showing their seldom seen flexibility at the VPIWF

To give credit where credit is due, the upcoming Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival (#VPIWF) will have some great options for consumers during the three nights the International Tasting Room is open to the public. Nightly, March 1st through 3rd, the participating wineries will be pouring their wares for ticket holders eager to explore the variety of otherwise unavailable or unattainable wines on offer. Should consumers fall in love with a wine and want to purchase, the BCLDB will have an on-site wine store set-up with some unique options for shoppers:
  • A free bottle check service allowing you to purchase early in the evening and have the wines set aside for you to pick up when you leave.
  • Or, take advantage of the free shipping service to your local BC Liquor Store.
  • Then get home safely with a complimentary single zone transit ticket from the BC Liquor Stores Get Home Safe booth.
It's easy to be critical of a monopolistic government body that controls every aspect of the wine business in the Province of BC with occasional joyless autocracy, but sometimes the BCLDB gets it right and needs to be commended. So, congratulations to the Liquor Board and the organizers of the festival for thinking of ways of making the purchasing and consumption of wine feel more like the positive experience it should be rather than the burden on society it is often likened to.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

BC Wine Deal: February 8th, 2012

The following wines have been reduced in price at participating VQA wine shops and BCLDB stores.

Domaine de Chaberton Shiraz Canoe Cove was $30.00 is now $25.99
Domaine de Chaberton Cabernet/Merlot Canoe Cove was $22.25 is now $19.99
Gray Monk Odyssey Rose Brut was $24.99 is now $19.99
Greata Ranch Pinot Noir 2009 was $18.90 is now $13.90
Nkmip Merlot was $19.99 is now $18.49
Nkmip Pinot Blanc was $15.99 is now $14.49
Nkmip Chardonnay QQ was $25.00 is now $23.50
Nkmip Chardonnay was $16.99 is now $15.49
Paradise Ranch Chardonnay Ice Wine was $60.00 is now $42.99
Paradise Ranch Merlot Ice Wine was $50.00 is now $44.99
Paradise Ranch Chardonnay/Riesling Late Harvest was $18.00 is now $12.99
Road 13 Stemwinder was $21.99 is now $19.99
Spierhead Cabernet Franc was $29.90 is now $27.90
Spierhead Cabernet Sauvignon was $32.90 is now $27.90
Spierhead Merlot was $29.90 is now $27.90
Summerhill Cabernet Franc was $28.95 is now $26.95
Therapy Super Ego was $38.99 is now $31.99

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In Anticipation Of…

With winter upon us and wineries busy with finishing the wines from the previous year(s), the river of BC wine releases has slowed to a trickle. This gives us time to continue our look ahead at 2012 with a focus on yet to be released or even tasted wines.

Based on previous successes and recent vintage conditions we're expecting great things from the following 8 wines in 2012. Only time will tell if they will live-up to expectations. We'll be sure to post full tasting notes as we get our hands on them.

Fairview Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
Expected Spring release. The 2010 release was possibly the firm's best yet with an excellent combination of crisp acidity and granny smith apple, lemon grass and grapefruit flavours. However, the 190 cases released last Spring were snatched-up so quickly that only a few lucky souls were able to get their hands on it. For the 2011 release the production has been increased to 600+ cases due to bumper crops of Sauvignon Blanc from the Fairview and Iverson vineyards which are blended with small amounts of Semillon to make the final wine. Finding the 2011 version should be an easier exercise.

Crooked Post Vineyard 2010 Pinot Noir
Possible Spring release. Produced by Fairview Cellars' Bill Eggert, this single vineyard Pinot has shown good progression since its inaugural vintage in 2008. The Pinot-friendly 2010 weather along with a maturing vineyard and increased Pinot producing experience for Eggert creates a happy trifecta of anticipation generation.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2009 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red
Possible late Summer release. Easily the most affordable of the elite Meritage blends available on the market today, the 2Bench Red benefits from a patient winery who grant it an extra year of bottle aging prior to release.

JoieFarm 2010 Reserve Chardonnay
Expected Fall release. Few wineries have released a more consistently delicious product than the Reserve Chardonnay from JoieFarm. Vintage variation, both good and bad, remains relevant despite the multiple vineyard blending process employed by winemaker Heidi Noble for her Chardonnay and since conditions were excellent in 2010 for the cool-climate style, our expectations are high. To help pass the time until the Fall, seak-out the still available 2009 vintage.

Howling Bluff Estate Winery 2010 Summa Quies Pinot Noir
Possible Spring release. We're not the only ones excited about the results of a Pinot friendly vineyard in a Pinot friendly vintage. Proprietor Luke Smith notes "2010 was some of the best Pinot Noir fruit I have ever seen from our vineyard and from the Three Sisters vineyard and anecdotally my peers echo those thoughts about Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay here on the bench." May be hard to improve on the gorgeous 2009 vintage, but here's hoping.

La Frenz Winery 2009 Grand Total Reserve
Expected June release. The "Big Reds" from the hot 2009 vintage produced by veteran Okanagan wineries have thus far been some of best in years. The La Frenz Grand Total Reserve is always one of the best "icon wines" of the year yet never seems to get the press of its peers. Well, that may all change in 2012 with the release of the 2009 Grand Total and its typical, ultra-smooth, effortless expression of dark fruit and toasted oak.

Stoneboat Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir
Expected June release. On the pedigree of the terrific 2008 and 2009 releases and with 2010 vintage Pinots from equally proficient wineries already scoring well, we wait in giddy anticipation of what Stoneboat's interpretation of the heart break grape will offer. Will the nice earth notes remain? Will there be more minerality? Time will tell.

Cassini Cellars 2009 Nobilus
No firm word on this wine's existence let alone a release date. If it does, then I can't wait to taste it. the 2008 was amazing and really showed what wineries can do with Merlot as a showpiece wine rather than just a blending component or as a roster-filling release.

Monthly Picks: February 2012

In February we celebrate Valentine's Day so this month's picks are all sensual wines. The perfect pairing for Romance's special day.

Hillebrand Winery 2010 Trius Cabernet Franc - $15
Not overly complex, but tasty and satisfying with good concentration and moderately intense tannins. The finish is long and balanced with lingering clove spice and a touch of minerality.
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Fort Berens Estate Winery 2010 Pinot Gris - $18
 Mouth watering tartness is refreshing and never overbearing, balancing the perception of sweetness from the fruit and the full-ish texture.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir - $20
There is a classic Pinot Noir earthiness to the nose of this wine but it is the raspberry, cherry, mint and smoked cedar aromas which take center stage and confuse your mind that you'll be drinking a much more expensive Pinot.
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Wayne Gretzky Estate Wines 2007 Estate Series Cabernet-Merlot - $20
The wine is presented as an interesting New World / Bordeaux cross with the juicy fruit one expects at the forefront of the flavour profile from a North American Meritage wine matched impressively well with the lean, mean, oak-loving style of Bordeaux.
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Stoneboat Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir - $25
Awarded a 2011 Lieutenant Governor's Award of Excellence, this light garnet hued Pinot Noir from Oliver's Stoneboat Vineyards offers a gorgeous, seductive nose of sweet cherry-cola candy, vanilla, cedar, light earth and subtle oak spice aromas.
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Stag's Hollow Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc - $28
The nose of the Stag's Hollow Cabernet Franc is both subtle and powerful. The power comes from intense concentration of dark berries and French oak aromas accompanied by layers of pleasant, subtle notes of flowers, fresh tobacco and a touch of light chorizo sausage.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2009 Syrah - $40
must be quaffed to be believed. It is both seductive and fun with a sweetness to it that feels familiar and safe yet mysteriously absent from memory. Licorice, raspberry, dark cherry, caramel brittle, vanilla, clove and light oak aromas sit playfully in the glass.
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