Saturday, August 25, 2012

What's in Your Cellar, Michael?

Photo Courtesy JoieFarm
Michael Dinn

Michael began his career in wine in the front of house operations at some of Vancouver's top eateries like Cin Cin and C Restaurant. He officially became a sommelier in 1999, graduating top of his class from the Canadian Sommelier Guild. Meeting (and later marrying) chef and fellow sommelier Heidi Noble started a chain of events that lead them to become owners of one of BC's most respected and sought-after boutique wineries.

Michael cellars wine for both the pure enjoyment of consuming a beautifully aged bottle of wine in the company of similarly minded friends and for its inherent educational benefits. There's a lot to learn about wine by allowing it to evolve and mature naturally, but, as Michael notes, you must protect your investment if you ever want to reap its reward.

Q - What inspired you to hold onto that first bottle or case beyond when it was ready to drink?
I was fortunate about 13 years ago that I was introduced to a group of local wine trade gentlemen, all members of the Commanderie de Bordeaux, who used to take a couple of us “youngsters” out to lunch once a month and share wines that they had purchased for a pittance in the 70s and 80s. I tasted some amazing wines and learned that there are things that happen in the bottle over time that can never be created simply in the winery.

Q - Was there a particular bottle or region of wine that was the impetus of starting your collection?
Some wines that really stood out for me from the aforementioned lunches include 1978 Vieux Télégraphe, 1978 Chateau Fonsalette, 1982 Malartic-Lagraviere 1985 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon.

Q - What are your favourite wines to collect?
Robert Chevillon, Bruno Clair, Meo-Camuzet, Selbach-Oster, Ridge, Cameron, Dr Pauly Bergweiler, Bonneau du Martray, COS, Dunn Vineyards, Marcel Deiss, S.A. Huet, Tissot.> >

Q - What are your favourite wine regions to collect?
Burgundy (red & white), Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Sicily (in general), Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Q - Is there a jewel of note or a favourite wine in your collection?
No one wine in particular but a few that I am looking forward to drinking when the next meal or occasion presents itself include 1988 Monsanto “Il Poggio” Chianti Classico, 1991 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne, 1988 Chateau Latour, 2001 Dr Pauly Bergweiler Bernkastler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Spatlese.

Q - How do you store your collection?
In a converted closet, now a proper, insulated, temperature controlled cellar, below ground with a cooling unit and a constantly refilled bowl of water.

Q - What causes you to actually pull the trigger on a special bottle from your cellar?
Friends who can appreciate a great bottle coming by for a visit and dinner; Heidi making something amazing or just simply having gone too long between great bottles.

Q - What have you learned about wine from starting your collection?
  1. That wine needs to be stored properly or there is no point in collecting it.
  2. That wines without proper natural acidity do not stand to the medium or the long haul.
  3. That buying at least 3 bottles of actual collectibles is necessary to be able to enjoy a wine at its peak. The first bottle consumed should give some idea as to how much longer the others need to sleep and even if you drink bottle 2 too early, you have a third chance waiting in the cellar, as long as it isn’t corked.
Q - Would perusing your wine cellar offer any insight into you as a person?
Absolutely. I like wines with finesse and great natural acidity, regardless of the region. My preference for Old World wines has as much to do with geography as it does with tradition and quality. Most New World regions are warm to hot climates and I prefer cooler (due to elevation or latitude) and more maritime influenced regions where it is more likely that the winegrower will be able to maintain balance in the grapes, hence balance in the wines.

Q - Any general comments about building a collection?
A sufficient and diverse stock of ready-to-drink-now wines is crucial to keeping your hands off of the good stuff while you wait for them to mature.

Q - What advice would you share to anyone wanting to start a collection of wine?
Collect producers rather than simply regions. Great producers will always produce excellent wines even in challenging vintages because they make the necessary adjustments. Above all, have a proper place to store the wines or the investment will be all for not.

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Introducing Silverback Vineyards

Silverback Vineyards in the brainchild of consulting winemaker Charles Herrold who dreamed of a boutique winery completely under his helm that would focus only on a concise portfolio of ultra-premium, small-lot wines. He found the quality and control he desired in Washington State's Columbia Valley leasing select blocks of grapes from premium vineyards and producing his wines among a strong community of like-minded winemakers in and around the city of Grandview.

The Columbia Valley has long attracted many of the world's great winemakers who work out of co-op or collective wineries such as Long Shadows Vintners which has been home to the likes of Michel Rolland, John Duval and Randy Dunn, each producing a signature wine and showcasing the amazing terroir of the Columbia Valley AVAs. With his Silverback Vineyards project, Herrold aims for the renown quality and prestige of Long Shadows while imparting his signature style on some of the world's most beloved wines: Chardonnay, Syrah and Bordeaux Blends.

Herrold's approach to winemaking is to apply minimal intervention, focusing on well-tended grapes from proven vineyards and by making the right choices in the winery to avoid compensating with chemicals - a common practice in the wine industry. Few faults or tweeks get past Herrold's refined nose and palate leading him to, essentially, strive to produce wines that pass his own critical sniff test.

The four wines that will be released this coming winter (exact dates not yet confirmed) would pass any one's sniff test as exceptionally crafted and executed gems that are sure to be a hit with collectors for their ageability and promise of further evolution.

The winery's website is not yet active, but look to get on the mailing list once it is to request an allotment. BC residents will have to wait until early 2013 before they're likely to see a bottle on a wine shop shelf. Your best bet is the Everything Wine store in South Surrey.

A note about the scores
I'm using some large ranges here as these wines have yet to be bottled. Though the wines are "finished" (blends have been finalized and the wines racked and/or filtered), they won't be released until the winter of 2012 upon which they will have spent 4-5 months in the bottle. Also, these wines are built to age and evolve, thus, the range is also an indication of expected improvement over time. Wines may be re-tasted upon release for a final score.

2011 Chardonnay - 94pts
A single-vineyard Chardonnay from the Horse heaven Hills AVA, cropped to 3.5 tonnes per acre and aged in both French and Hungarian oak with only minimal lees agitation for 6 months. As a result, the palate is exquisitely balanced with a subtle, ever-present texture allowing the fruit, mineral and oak influence flavours to sing in harmony with the mouth-watering, citrus melody.
Full Review

2010 Sangiovese - 92pts
Aged in 500L American oak puncheons and sourced from the Desert Hills Vineyard near Grandview, Washington, this Sangiovese also shows depth of character with layers of crayon, boysenberry, huckleberry and churchwood (worn, yet cared-for old wood). May not age as long as the fuller-bodied and finely structured Silverback Syrahs and blends, but some further evolution is possible, if not probable.
Full Review

2010 Syrah - 95pts
A dark, intense ruby coloured Syrah with a medium purple rim and a lovely sheen. Pulls you into its web at first sniff with layers of dark fruit, violets, tar, licorice, vanilla, subtle allspice and vibrant citrus notes. An excellent prelude to the concentrated palate that offers superb acidity and balance with fine tannins and long-lasting, spicy dark fruit flavours that role around your mouth with youthful abandon.
Full Review

2010 Référence - 94+pts
Fans of Blackwood Lane's 2006 and 2007 "Referènce" will enjoy a familiar blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec with Herrold's signature concentrated-yet-gentle and endlessly-layered graphite and dark fruit flavour profile. Classic Meritage berry fruit and savoury, gun powder and Christmas cake spice flavours add complexity to the finely tuned oak treatment and proprietary yeast program that Herrold employs. Ultra fine tannins and perfect acidity levels create a wine for enjoying in its youth or for aging 15+ years.
Full Review

2011 Reserve Syrah - 99pts
Charles decided to experiment with one barrel of his 100% free-run Syrah production from the 2011 vintage using a Bordeaux yeast normally reserved for Cabernet Sauvignon and the results are truly stunning. Violets, tar, cherry, licorice and citrus characters galore. This wine is as close to perfection as I've had the privilege to taste. Glaetzer's Amon-Ra springs to mind but with more depth, if that's even conceivable.  Of course, time will tell. Only 55 cases have been produced.
Full Review

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

BC Wine Deal: August 17th, 2012

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

Cassini Merlot was $18.90 is now $17.90
Chaberton Canoe Chardonnay Barrel Reserve was $13.99 is now $11.49
Chaberton Gamay Noir was $15.99 is now $13.49
Chaberton Pinot Gris was $15.99 is now $13.49
Chaberton Siegerrebe was $16.99 is now $14.49
Fork in the Road White was $17.99is now $16.99
Hillside Reserve Merlot was $17.49 is now $14.99
Jackson Triggs Chardonnay Private Reserve was $12.99 is now $10.99
Jackson Triggs Shiraz Grand Reserve was $25.99 is now $19.99
Jackson Triggs Merlot Gold Series was $29.99 is now $23.99
Jackson Triggs Merlot Black Series was $14.99 is now $12.99
Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc Black Series was $13.99 is now $11.99
Jackson Triggs Shiraz Silver Series was $19.99 is now $16.99
Jackson Triggs Viognier Silver Series was $14.49 is now $13.99
Mission Hill Syrah Select Lot was $36.99 is now $29.99
Neck of the Woods Pinot Gris was $15.99 is now $11.99
Paradise Ranch Pinot Blanc Late Harvest was $17.99 is now $14.99
Paradise Ranch Chardonnay Late Harvest was $17.98 is now $15.99
Peller Pinot Blanc was $12.99 is now $11.99
Peller Merlot was $14.99 is now $13.99
Prospect Pinot Blanc was $13.99 is now $12.99
See Ya Later Ping was $27.99 is now $25.99
Sumac Ridge Chardonnay Private Reserve was $13.99 is now $12.99
Summerhill Cipes Pinot Noir Brut was $29.95 is now $24.95
Township 7 Chardonnay was $19.99 is now $18.49
Township 7 Merlot was $24.99 is now $22.99

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's in Your Cellar, Dwight?

Photo courtesy Stag's Hollow Winery
Dwight Sick
Stag's Hollow Winery

Dwight's passion for France's Rhone Valley is demonstrated by the selection of wines he's chosen to cellar over the years and by sampling the wines he's expanded Stag's Hollow's portfolio with. Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Grenache have all made appearances as blends or as single varietal releases in the Okanagan Falls winery's wine shop in recent years, with more to come.

Q - What are your favourite wine regions to cellar/collect?
Northern Rhone (Syrah, Marsanne), Priorat (Grenache), Bandol (Mourvedrre both rose and red wines)

Q - What is the purpose of your wine cellar/collection?
Quite simply it is to share. The act of sharing unique wines from the cellar with my friends and being able to exchange thoughts about this experience usually exceeds the actual act of drinking the wine.

Q - Is there a jewel of note or a favourite wine in your collection?
A bottle of 1966 Taylor Vintage Port which was my birth year. Not sure when to drink it yet.

Q - How do you store your collection?
I live in an old heritage orchard home in Penticton. The house has a half basement in concrete with the remaining half being a dirt crawl space. The crawl space occupies the entire north side of the side basement and has been transformed into a make shift wine cellar that can house roughly 300 bottles. The humidity and temperature remain surprising constant in this environment.

Q - Was there a particular bottle or region of wine that was the impetus of starting your collection?
Australia and a bottle of 1986 Grange. It was the year that my first daughter was born. Prior to winemaking, I worked for 19 years as a flight attendant. One of my key routes to work was the South Pacific and it allowed me to spend a substantial amount of time exploring Australia wines.

Q - What causes you to actually pull the trigger on a special bottle from your cellar?
Most of the special bottles that I have drunk have been totally unplanned and usually involved good friends that randomly dropped in. There is nothing better than a Tuesday night special bottle.

Q - What have you learned about wine from starting your collection?
We are a small fish in a big ocean. Explore wine. The wines of the world offer endless expressions of varietal character and of site terroir.

Q - Would perusing your wine cellar offer any insight into you as a person?
I'm not sure if it is my cellar but is there a wine out there that is perhaps a little bit rough around the edges, is driven and focused, and is always looking to improve vintage after vintage?

Q - Any general comments about building a collection?
March to your own drummer and follow your own palette. Regardless of what others may think about a wine, it is important to believe in your own personal preferences.

Q - What advice would you share to anyone wanting to start a collection of wine?
The most important thing to remember about wine is to not take it too seriously, after all it is just booze. Enjoy the moment as much as the wine.

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What's in Your Cellar, Glenn?

Photo courtesy of Black Hills Estate Winery
Glenn Fawcett
Black Hills Estate Winery

When Glenn Fawcett became the president of Black Hills Estate Winery in 2006 he began a program to upgrade the equipment and slowly expand the portfolio of wines which now includes a second label called Cellar Hand. He believes in the quality of the wines of British Columbia and this is reflected in his cellar selections which includes 11 vintages of the winery's flagship wine Nota Bene and other local blends and Syrah. His general advice on building a collection is to "Save what you love!" Good advice to follow considering you will likely end-up drinking it all as private wine sales between collectors is still illegal in BC.

Q - What are your favourite wines to cellar/collect?
Typically Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Bordeaux Style blends

Q - What are your favourite wine regions to cellar/collect?
Black Sage Road, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Russian River, Santa Lucia Highlands, Rioja, Bordeaux and Tuscany.

Q - What is the purpose of your wine cellar/collection?
If we go on a wine tour or wine buying trip, we often buy bottles that we want to save for a special occasion to share with friends. Having a cellar allows you to save those wines for those special moments

Q - Is there a jewel of note or a favourite wine in your collection?
Tensley Syrah. (From Santa Barbara California)

Q - Any particular duds or disappointments of note?
As a general rule I have found that Merlot has not aged that well for us

Q - What inspired you to hold onto that first bottle or case beyond when it was ready to drink?
The passionate recommendation of a Winemaker, who told me it would only get better with age

Q - Was there a particular bottle or region of wine that was the impetus of starting your collection?
Sandhill Phantom Creek Syrah.

Q - What causes you to actually pull the trigger on a special bottle from your cellar?
The realization that we have a group of friends together that have not been together for a long time

Q - What have you learned about wine from starting your collection?
How much we love wine!

Q - Would perusing your wine cellar offer any insight into you as a person?
How incredibly passionate we are about Canadian Wine from a variety of producers.
Q - What advice would you share to anyone wanting to start a collection of wine?
Do as much research as possible to determine the age ability of the wine.

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Monthly Picks: August 2012

With an updated list of Summer Sippers posted here we devote this month's wine picks to light and medium bodied red wines to enjoy in the fading evening sun of summer.

M. Chapoutier 2010 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut - $15
Not the effortlessly balanced wine of its 2009, yet, the wine remains ever an easy-drinking, feminine, fruit-forward, soft-tannin blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan that boasts of the hot, Mediterranean coastal region terroir from where it originated.
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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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Stag's Hollow Winery 2011 Syrah Rosé - $19
The cheerfully sublime nose of this rosé from Okanagan Falls producer Stag's Hollow offers strawberry, rose petal and light rhubarb notes with the comforting aromas of Peek Freans' Fruit Cream cookies. How can you resist that?
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SynchroMesh Wines 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé - $20
Ever-so-slightly off-dry on the rhubarb and strawberry infused palate adding texture and body - but not a girlie, sweet rosé and certainly far from being a push-over. This is a well-made, refined rosé worth attentive exploration.
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Haywire Winery 2010 Pinot Noir - $27
This Pinot from Summerland's Haywire Winery uses fruit sourced from Oliver which was endowed with a healthy dose of natural acidity and plenty of raspberry, cranberry and cherry-cola characters on the gorgeous nose and watery palate.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2008 Oldfield Series Pinot Noir - $30
This is an excellent Pinot Noir with a classic BC combination of earthy notes with red fruit and plum characters that emphasizes drinkability and food pairing.
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12 Summer Sippers for 2012

Aromatic white wines, both single varietals and blends, make for excellent sunny-deck-socializing and picnic pairing. Ideally, to beat the heat and compliment the long evenings we get up north in August, you'll want a wine that has the ratio of sugar-to-acid balanced to favour a touch of sugar to keep you energized and just the right amount of acid to keep your mouth refreshed and ready for more.

The following 12 wines, arranged by price-point, manage the balance of sugar-to-acid well and qualify as a Summer Sipper. Enjoy.

Mezzacorona 2011 Pinot Grigio - $10
To be sure, there is nothing complex or terribly unique about this wine but is it a good drink with some decent typicity for the variety that will make for a happy addition to any sunny deck. Yes. Clean, crisp and loaded with citrus fruit zest and light mineral notes- well worth the ten $ it will cost to open.

Graham Beck Wines 2010 The Game Reserve Sauvignon Blanc - $10
Clean, crisp and focused, this South African Sauvignon Blanc has a lot going for it with good varietal expression of lemon/lime and kiwi fruit with typical grassy notes wrapped within a tart, mouth watering embrace of green apple acidity.

Intrigue Wines 2011 "11" - $15
At $15 bucks a pop this wine may be the best valued Summer Sipper for 2012 from BC. An effortless blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat Canelli that delivers good fruit expression and mouth-watering acidity without ever feeling "hot" despite its light bodied structure.
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Chateau Des Charmes 2010 St. David's Bench Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc - $15
The acid is high and a tad sharp, but when paired with a hot deck and fresh oysters, you'll be thankful it's there. The moderate finish lingers with cool minerality and tart, green apple flavours and just a hint of spice.
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Cellar Hand 2011 Free Run White - $16
An easy-going, well-priced blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Light bodied with a good amount of acidity, but nothing that will tire-out your palate - only leave it refreshed for more. Perfect pair for summer salads.

Oyster Bay Wines 2010 Sauvignon Blanc - $17
Classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with loads of gooseberry, green apple, sweet grass and lemon drop aromas and flavours without pungent cat's pee notes. Dry, with a touch of residual sugar to offset the mouth watering acid.
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Fairview Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - $20
The driest selection of the bunch, this Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and citrus-y is a perfect match for oysters and hot decks.
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Young and Wyse Collection 2011 Amber - $20
A lively and cheerful blend of 43% Viognier, 37% Pinot Gris and 20% Gewurztraminer with apple crumble, papaya and sweet citrus aromas on the pleasant nose. The crisp palate follows with intense green apple acidity, lemon/lime flavours and cool minerality.
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Summerhill Pyramid Winery 2010 Riesling - $20
This is an ultra-low alcohol, off-dry example of the Germanic variety with a concentrated, vibrant nose of apples, nectarines, flowers and steel aromas. The sweet and tangy palate follows with intense apricot, gooseberry and fruit cup flavours with green apple tartness.
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La Frenz Winery 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - $22
Year-in, year-out the La Frenz Sauvignon Blanc is a top medal contender in every competition it enters. The 2011 release may be the winery's best yet with a rich offering of citrus and tropical fruit flavours and aromas. The balance of residual sugar-to-rich fruit-to-crisp acidity is nearly perfect and makes for a lovely, mouth-watering mouth feel.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2011 Oldfield Series 2Bench White - $23
Both opulent, with rich orchard fruit by the bushel, and light with delicate, aromatic notes'a'plenty. Melon, grapefruit and minerals round out the flavour profile with a touch of lingering spice on the long finish. Just delicious!
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JoieFarm 2011 A Noble Blend - $24
For the second year in a row the blend for the JoieFarm flagship wine remains a Riesling-Gewurztraminer leading concoction of exotic fruit characters and well-balanced, refreshing acidity.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012