Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Get To Know... Alan Dickinson

Alan Dickinson
Vintner, SynchroMesh Wines
Okanagan Falls, BC

How do you fill the void of a lack of terroir-driven Rieslings produced in your home wine region? If you're Alan Dickinson, together with your family, you open your own micro-winery and create the minimalist Riesling of your dreams. 'Minimalist' in the way it's made, with little-to-no intervention during winemaking, not 'minimalist' in regards to the impression it makes on the nose or palate.

SynchroMesh, whose name is an ode to the Dickinson's love for vintage cars and racing and which refers to many intricate parts working together seamlessly, is not the first winery whose central focus revolves around producing top-notch Riesling that transmits the terroir from whence it came into the glass (see Tantalus Vineyards). Nor will they be the last (we hope), but they have helped raise the bar and, arguably, produce one of the Province's best under the direction of Alan's hands-off approach.

However, a new business based on a a single-sku product is less likely to achieve financial success and thus, the small winery also produces a few other labels that fit their "what we like to drink" criteria. A Rosé, a Gewurztraminer and a red blend fill-out the portfolio of wines which are available via their mailing list or at the many restaurants that have snatched-up their allotment of these food-friendly wines. For 2013, this portfolio will expand to include a second Riesling label sourced from a Naramata Bench vineyard and a Pinot Noir from an East Kelowna vineyard.

Get to know Alan a bit better and get to know their wines...

Key wines to try:
Stormhaven Vineyard Riesling 2014
Thorny Vines Vineyard Riesling 2012

1. What do you enjoy most about making wine?
Working with the vines and unique properties that bring such different expressions of the same varietals. Producing single vineyard wines focussed on specific varietals allows me to experience the influence that terroir has on finished wines. Farming really is the basis of the wine business and the part I love the most. I don't think the dogs would disagree either, they never looked back when we moved here from Vancouver.

2. What inspired you to become a winemaker?
I was fortunate to taste and work with some of the top wines of the world in my previous employment. I fell hard for Riesling but discovered that most of the wines that I truly loved, were produced with a similar philosophy to that which we follow at Synchromesh. Sustainable vineyard practices, natural low cropping, extensive use of indigenous yeasts and no manipulations or additives in winemaking. I think it makes better wines but it certainly makes more unique and terroir driven wines.

3. What causes you the most stress during harvest?
I actually really enjoy harvest time. It is super long days and nights, crippling back pain, numb fingers and constantly being sticky, but for us it is the first chance to see what our hard work in the vineyard and the unique vintage qualities will bring to our new wines. If I had to say one thing that does stress me out, it would be all the wild fermentation we do. The potential of things going sideways or in a really weird direction is definitely there. Especially at the beginning of our Pinot Noir ferments, they always start off with some concerning aromatics until the right yeasts build up their populations and take over and everyone around has to put up with me thinking I've ruined everything until they sort themselves out.

4. What is your favourite and/or least favourite wine cliché?
It takes a lot of beer to make great wine... I live by it!

5. Away from the cellar and vineyard, what’s your greatest passion in life?
Along with my wife, Amy and our Terriers Morris and Darby, I love vintage cars. Just ask my wife how often I stay up half the night looking through craigslist ads across North America looking for another rusty old car to park on the property.

6. After a long day of work in the cellar, what do you turn to for refreshment?

7. If you could take credit for one other BC wine on the market today, which would it be and why?
I love the McLean Creek Pinot Noir from Meyer Family across the road, they are another great family producer and have similar philosophies to us. It must be the terrior!

8. Of the wines in your portfolio, do you have a favourite food pairing to go with one of the wines?
It goes against what most people think but our 2011 Riesling with lots of residual sugar and acid is a perfect pairing for a rich red meat dish like braised beef with goat cheese. I discovered this pairing eating at The Portly Chef in North Van. The wine cuts through the salt and richness and refreshes the palate.

9. What do you think will be the next big trend in BC wine over the next few years?
I think the keg wine movement will continue to gain momentum in Vancouver's restaurant scene. It's a great, sustainable option for by the glass wines and great way for wineries to provide good value, simpler and more accessible wines at competitive pricing. With talk of a looming oversupply of BC wines in the market, this is a good way for local producers to be competitive with international wines in the entry level price points, gain some of that market and to move their lower tier wines.

10. Screwcap or cork? What’s your preference?
I'm not sold one way or another. I like Screwcaps on aromatic whites and Pinot Noir to keep freshness and delicacy intact as they age but I'm not sold on Bordeaux varietals. There is something magic that happens under cork that we don't fully understand yet.

How to contact Alan and the SynchroMesh/Alto Wine Group team:
Alto Wine Group Inc.
4220 McLean Creek Road
Okanagan Falls, BC
V0H 1R0

  - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

BC Wineries Win Big in California

Results from the most recent Riverside International Wine Competition have surfaced and BC wineries scored an impressive 12 gold medals.
For the full list of awards visit the competition's website:

Bench 1775 Winery 2011 Paradise Ranch Ice Wine - $50
Bench 1775 Winery 2011 Paradise Ranch Ice Wine - $30
Bench 1775 Winery 2011 Paradise Ranch Sweet Red Blend - $20
Calona Vineyards 2012 Artist Series Sovereign Opal - $15 (Chairman's Award)
JoieFarm 2012 "Think Pink" Rose - $22 (Sweepstakes Award)
JoieFarm 2011 Gamay - $24 (Best of Class)
JoieFarm 2011 PTG - $24 (Best of Class)
La Frenz Winery 2011 Reserve Chardonnay - $29
La Frenz Winery 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - $22
La Frenz Winery 2011 Viognier - $22 (Chairman's Award)
La Frenz Winery 2012 Sauvignon Blanc - $22 (Chairman's Award)
La Frenz Winery 2012 Riesling - $22 (Best of Class)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

JoieFarm: The Best Yet

The 2012 Spring release from JoieFarm is proving to be the best yet from the Naramata Bench winery most famous for its proprietary white blend, A Noble Blend, and for its Think Pink rose but who have been filling out their portfolio with more single-varietal options in recent years. After two cooler vintages, 2012 sees a return to the winery's balanced opulence roots with seven new releases for Spring including a new Gewurztraminer and a revamped Pinot Blanc.
A mild and dry Fall provided extended hang time for the fruit to build up sugars and achieve phenolic ripeness, while cool nights provided the desired level of acid resulting is a potent mix of attributes for exceptionally well-balanced wines. As fate would have it, quality was not the only benefactor in 2012, production is also up which means you'll have an easier time finding these great wines at local private stores, VQA stores and even some BCLDB Signature Stores..
JoieFarm 2012 A Noble Blend - $24
The art of assemblage is on display with this blend of 35% Gewurztraminer, 29% Riesling, 17% Pinot Blanc, 12% Pinot Auxerrois, 4% Schoenberger and 3% Muscat with each component contributing its own coloured tile to the larger mosaic, creating a complete and rewarding experience.
JoieFarm 2012 Rosé - $22
The 2012 assemblage is made up of 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Gamay, 5% Pinot Meunier and 5% Pinot Gris with the components soaked on their skins for 3 to 4 days, helping to extract just the right amount of tannin and create the signature watermelon Jolly Rancher colour.
JoieFarm 2012 Gewurztraminer - $23
On the heels of the winery's successful Reserve Gewurztraminer from 2010 comes this varietal-series release with less bottle age built for early consumption. Expresses the pure joy of drinking a well-balanced, off-dry Gewurztraminer focused on texture above complexity.
JoieFarm 2012 Riesling - $23
A very consistent Riesling in style vintage to vintage and with its flavour profile from the nose through to the palate. Always a juxtaposition of acid and residual sugar, this rich, concentrated wine offers with a pleasing combination of citrus, honeydew, minerals, pineapple and green apple.
JoieFarm 2012 Un-Oaked Chardonnay - $23
There's un-oaked Chardonnay and then there's JoieFarm's un-oaked Chardonnay. The Naramata Bench winery packs so much into the nose and palate that the oak influence isn't missed.
JoieFarm 2012 Pinot Blanc - $23
Happily, the Pinot Blanc remains in the JoieFarm line-up for the 2012 vintage, though, at first blush, it's nearly unrecognizable when compared to the opulent 2011 edition.
JoieFarm 2012 Muscat - $23
Off-dry levels of residual sugar are well balanced by the citrus acidity on the concentrated, expressive palate. Manages to remain light and fresh despite the impressive body and texture derived from the opulent fruit rather than from any glycerol effect from high alcohol.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

BC Wine Deal: May 13th, 2013

The following wines have been marked down at your local BC VQA and participating BCLDB stores.

AndrewPeller Cabernet/Merlot Heritage Series was $14.99 is now $12.99
Andrew Peller Chardonnay Private Reserve was $17.99 is now $15.99
Andrew Peller Merlot Reserve was $19.99 is now $17.99
Andrew Peller Pinot Blanc Heritage Series was $12.99 is now $10.99
Arrowleaf Solstice Reserve was $25.00 is now $20.00
Bartier Brothers The Cowboy was $22.90 is now $19.90
Calona Sandhill Viognier Small Lots was $28.00 is now $25.00
Calona Sovereign Opal was $14.99 is now $12.99
Cedar Creek Pinot Gris was $17.95 is now $16.95
Fork in the Road Red was $18.99 is now $17.99
Fork in the Road White was$15.99 is now $14.99
Gray Monk Riesling was $16.99 is now $14.99
Haywire Rose was $18.99 is now $16.95
Hester Creek Character White was $19.95 is now $17.95
Hillside Rose was $18.99 is now $16.99
Inniskillin Reserve Pinot Blanc was $13.99 is now $12.49
Inniskillin Discovery Series Chenin Blanc was $16.99 is now $15.49
Inniskillin Reserve Merlot was $16.99 is now $15.49
Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon was $16.99 is now $15.49
Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve was $18.99is now $17.49
Jackson Triggs Merlot Black Label Series was $14.99 is now $13.49
Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc Black Label Series was $13.99 is now $12.29
Jackson Triggs Shiraz Black Label Series was $16.99 is now $14.99
La Stella Lastellina Rose was $25.00 is now $20.90
Le Vieux Pin Rose was $25.00 is now $21.90
Mission Hill Cabernet Merlot 5 Vineyards was $16.99 is now $15.99
Mission Hill Chardonnay 5 Vineyards was $14.99 is now $13.99
Open Cabernet/Merlot was $14.99 is now $11.99
Open Merlot was $14.99 is now $10.49
Open Sauvignon Blanc was $14.99 is now $10.49
Saturna Un-Oaked Chardonnay was $15.95 is now $14.99
Saturna Riesling was $16.95 is now $15.99
Sumac Ridge Gewurztraminer Private Reserve was $14.99 is now $13.99
Sumac Ridge Merlot Private Reserve was $15.99 is now $14.99
Sumac Ridge Sauvignon Blanc Private Reserve was $13.99 is now $12.99
Summerhill Baco Noir was $24.95 is now $22.95
Summerhill Cipes Pinot Noir Brut was $29.95 is now $26.95
Township 7 Sauvignon Blanc was $18.95 is now  $17.99
Vista D'Oro Port Style wine was $49.45 is now  $35.40
Vista D'Oro Murphy's Law was $29.40 is now  $21.40
Wild Goose Pinot Noir was $18.99 is now  $18.00

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Buy Mum a Rose

Mother's Day is just a few days away and you may be scrambling for gift ideas and a plan to make the mums in your life feel special. If reservations to her favourite restaurant don't pan out then why not just organize a potluck brunch at home? Not only will the effort be highly appreciated, but the standard potluck fare cries out for rosé wines due to their versatility to pair with a variety of foods.

To satisfy the gift element of the celebration, ask all of your guests to bring a bottle of pink for mum to take home. Below are but a few of the food-friendliest rosé wines on the market in BC today.

Fort Berens Estate Winery 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé - 18
Produced from 100% estate grown fruit in Lillooet, this cheerfully pink Pinot Noir rosé has generous aromas of juicy red fruit and light mineral notes followed by a dry palate with similar flavours, terroir influence and just a hint of tannins.
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Stag's Hollow Winery 2012 Syrah Rosé - $20
The 2012 edition of this excellent Syrah rosé from Stag's Hollow sees only a nominal amount of Orange Muscat and Viognier (2% and 1% respectively) added to the blend but the effect is impressive with gorgeous, sweet, floral and tangy aromas of cherry, rose petals, tangerine, lime rind and rhubarb appearing on the nose.
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SynchroMesh Wines 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé - $20
Look for a new vintage to be released soon. 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.
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River Stone Estate Winery 2012 Malbec Rosé - $20
Bold, both in hue and in flavour, the River Stone Malbec Rosé is one of the more colourful and fuller-bodied blush wines on the market in BC today. Juicy and ripe cran-apple, pomegranate and strawberry flavours are supported by light tannins and grapefruit acidity.
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JoieFarm 2012 Rosé - $21
A remarkably consistent wine, year-to-year, thanks to the Naramata Bench winery's flexibility with each year's blend. The 2012 assemblage is made up of 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Gamay, 5% Pinot Meunier and 5% Pinot Gris with the components soaked on their skins for 3 to 4 days, helping to extract just the right amount of tannin and create the signature watermelon Jolly Rancher colour.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2012 Oldfield Series 2Bench Rosé - $23
The signature light brick/salmon colour remains for the new 2012 edition, as does the refreshing blend of cranberry and strawberry-kiwi fruit flavours, ever-so-light tannins and delightful, aromatic nose.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Monthly Picks: May 2013

For May we're highlighting six new releases to the BC market from recent vintages including the fantastic 2012 which, thus far, has delivered some amazing white wines. All are available by contacting the winery directly or from select private and BCLDB stores.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2012 Pinot Gris - $19
Lush and juicy on the nose with ripe pear, apple and tangerine aromas and a hint of tropical fruit notes in the background. Light mineral and green apple notes also help contrast the rich fruit making for a refreshing and compelling Summer sipper.
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JoieFarm 2012 A Noble Blend - $24
The art of assemblage is on display with this blend of 35% Gewurztraminer, 29% Riesling, 17% Pinot Blanc, 12% Pinot Auxerrois, 4% Schoenberger and 3% Muscat with each component contributing its own coloured tile to the larger mosaic, creating a complete and rewarding experience.
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Wild Goose Vineyards 2010 Merlot Reserve - $25
Showing great progress over previous vintages offering a lovely, fine tannin texture on the dark berry and oak spice palate while the nose reflects the cool vintage with bright, wild berry fruit and savoury vanilla and light cocoa aromas.
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Meyer Family Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir - $25
This entry-level Pinot Noir makes for an excellent introduction to the Meyer Family Vineyards line-up. Enjoy it in its youth as you wait for the winery's premium, single vineyard Pinots to mature.
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Stag's Hollow Winery 2010 Renaissance Merlot - $30
This Renaissance Merlot, the winery's long-running flagship wine, opens with a lovely nose of wild blackberry, plum jelly, cardamon, sweet coffee beans and oak spice. The tightly wound palate follows with youthful and bright berry flavours that haven't yet fully integrated with the toasted oak notes suggesting more bottle age is needed.
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Le Vieux Pin 2011 Ava - $35
"Ava", a blend of 78% Viognier, 11% Marsanne and 11% Roussanne offers a slightly muted nose but, there's lost to like with peach and apricot fruit aromas adding to the pleasant, aromatic bouquet. Clean and crisp with good minerality on the rounded, medium-plus bodied palate.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013