Friday, December 20, 2013

Festive Bubbles and Stickies

The Holidays (Christmas and New Years for my family) makes me very sentimental for the great loves of my life: family, friends, food, hockey and, of course, wine. It's a time to splurge (if you can) on your loved ones and when you get into this festive frame of mind, if you're anything like me, your mind will drift to more frivolous things like sparkling wines and those intensely sweet dessert wines that our Australian cousins so perfectly describe are 'stickies'.

These are the ultimate celebration wines as they deviate from our norm and excite the palate in ways we don't regularly explore. They are a treat, and are meant to be enjoyed by groups seeking the comfort of a shared experience. Below are a few suggestions for your next, joyous shared experience:

Backyard Vineyards N/V Blanc De Noir Brut - $23
Backyard Vineyards' Blanc De Noir is a traditional example of a sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Noir offering a light, yellow-gold hue and fat, persistent bubbles. On the nose you'll find an array of aromas ranging from sweet citrus fruit to fresh brioche with light nutty notes and a touch of brine.
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Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars N/V Brut - $24

A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris (47/47/6) grapes produced in the traditional Champagne method, this sparkling wine has been built to last. The lees-y character (two years sur-lie) will bloom over time and create a richly textured sparkler that will be sure to impress even the most severe of your Canadian-wine skeptic friends.
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Chateau Des Charmes 2010 Rosé Sparkling Wine - $29

traditional method rosé, with a brilliant pink hue and fine, persistent bubbles, made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes offering off-dry levels of residual sugar and loads of strawberry, cherry, honeydew and light mineral flavours.
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Summerhill Pyramid Winery NV Cipes Rosé - $29

A well balanced, fresh and vibrant Rosé sparkler with fine, persistent bubbles that delivers subtle cherry and tart cranberry characters and a touch of sweetness on the otherwise dry palate.
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Cassini Cellars 2010 Moscato - $24 (375ml)
This charming, honeydew and spicy peach flavoured wine opens with a lovely nose of pecans, tangerines and violets and will compliment your favourite nutty pie or crème brûlée rather than compete with it. Ready to be enjoyed now and though it will hold for many years I'd recommend early consumption while the wine is still youthful and fresh with well-balanced acidity.
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Chateau Des Charmes 2009 Vidal Icewine - $25.95 (200ml), $44.95 (375ml)
At 4 years of age this Vidal icewine has developed a yellow-gold hue and some lip smacking caramel characters to go with the classic, honeyed orchard fruit flavours on the maturing palate. A nice vein of citrus acidity keeps the intense sweetness (mostly) grounded.
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Bench 1775 Winery 2011 Whistler Sauvignon Blanc Icewine - $29 (200ml)

delivers an impressive punch of concentrated, honey crisp apples on the serene, sweet-smelling nose and on the well-balanced, intense palate. The sticky, pineapple upside-down cake and candied-peach flavours are beautifully managed with impressive, green apple acidity keeping the gooey texture fresh and mouth-watering.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2012 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine - $58 (375ml)

Delivers what we all expect from BC Icewine with intense, sweet, baked fruit on the nose and palate. Apple cider, apricot, peach and lime fruit galore with light mineral and nut characters. Texture is more of the 2% variety than the homo milk mouth feel that other Icewines offer, yet the balance is good and the finish is long.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Top 25 Wines of 2013

The format for our Top 25 list uses a subjective approach taking into account availability, collectability and relevance in the world of wine. For simply the highest rated wines of the year please visit our Top 25 Rated Wines of 2013 list on All wines were released within the calendar year and reviews based solely on barrel samples were excluded.

#1 - Icon Wine of the Year
Stag's Hollow Winery 2010 Cachet No. 03 - $50
This is a memorable, one-off blend of 49% Tempranillo, 43% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, worthy of the Cachet designation from Okanagan Falls' Stag's Hollow Winery, that is ready to go now, yet, should also enjoy a long life in your cellar with further integration and development.
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Silverback Vineyards 2011 Reserve Syrah - $240 (USD)
How does a near perfect wine come in 2nd place on this list? We must factor in availability and cost and sadly, this wine is not yet distributed in BC. Should you get your hands on a bottle you'll be treated to a powerfully elegant wine bursting with restrained intensity and dense, dense dark fruit flavours, effortlessly balanced by its expertly-tuned oak program.
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JoieFarm 2011 "En Famille" Reserve Gewurztraminer - $28
Though it draws its inspiration from Grand Cru Alsatian examples, this is a classic BC Gewurztraminer with excellent balance and attention to detail from the refined floral medley and seductive tropical fruit on the nose to the lip-smacking, off-dry palate full of ripe lychee fruit and generous spice that lingers on the long, long finish.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2010 Red Icon - $55
The 2010 sees 39% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 18% Petit Verdot, 11% Malbec and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon blended to produce an aromatic nose of dark berries, violets, mint, licorice, cedar and dark chocolate aromas while the dry palate charms with intense dark fruit puree flavours supported by fine tannins, mouth-watering acidity, warm earth and toasted oak notes.
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Silverback Vineyards 2010 Syrah - $80 (USD)
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. On par with the Columbia Valley's premium Syrah labels like Long Shadows' "Sequel". 
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Paul Hobbs Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon - $110
The 2010 vintage sees 6% Cabernet Franc added which contributes light floral notes to the gorgeous nose and creates an overall more feminine profile. Mint & licorice flavours add depth to the layers of cassis and blackberry fruit supported by powerful, yet, fine tannins. Drinking well now, with proper decanting, but should develop further with patient cellaring.
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Champagne Lanson N/V Extra Age Blanc de Blanc - $115
A stunning Champagne made from 100% Chardonnay grapes sourced exclusively from Grand and 1er cru vineyards from the 2003-05 vintages offering sweet brioche, floral and mineral characters. Fresh, clean and crisp, the house style avoids all secondary Malolactic fermentation leaving the natural acidity high yet completely balanced. Ultra delicate on the pleasing fine-bubbled palate.
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Silverback Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay - $55 (USD)
Exhibiting harmony and elegance on the nose with intense, yet gentle aromas when not served too cold and allowed time to open up. The palate starts soft with an even texture thanks to near perfect acidity, then builds to a greater intensity and length. Simply devine.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2012 Chardonnay - $30
How do you follow-up on an Icon Wine of the Year performance? You don't rest on laurels and keep on trucking. For Painted Rock that means continual refinement of the vineyard management practices, pruning and harvest program for every variety in your vineyard. The result is continued excellence producing another stand-out Chardonnay and one of the Province's best (pissst, get it while the price is still only $30!).
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Meyer Family Vineyards 2011 Micro Cuvée Chardonnay - $70
This remarkable Chardonnay combines raw power with amazing refinement while finding harmony between the unique terroir and oak treatment elements - a hallmark of the world's best Chardonnay. Both intense and restrained on the baked caramelized apple nose and leesy, orchard fruit and smoky palate. 
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Friday, December 6, 2013

2013 Icon Wine of the Year

2013 was another amazing year for wines with the proof showing in our Top 25 Icon Wines of the Year list. I'm confident every bottle on that list would satisfy even the most demanding of palates out there. However, there is always one wine which stands-out from its peers and remains imprinted in my mind's palate indefinitely, and for 2013 this wine is:

Stag's Hollow Winery 2010 Cachet No. 03
49% Tempranillo, 43% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon
$50 - 55 cases - 14%
93+pts - Icon Score

Congratulations to our runner-ups for this year's Icon Wine of the Year award: the 99-point Silverback Vineyards 2011 Reserve Syrah and the sublime JoieFarm 2011 "En Famille" Reserve Gewurztraminer. Sadly, all three of our finalists for 2013 are in short supply and may take a bit of effort to get a hold of, though, your persistence will pay off.

The Wine
Produced under Stag's Hollow's premier Cachet Wines label reserved for special, one-off blends, that represent the very best of each vintage. The humbly named "No. 03", the third such wine to receive the designation, is a blend of 49% Tempranillo, 43% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose is pure delight with loads of sweet, smoky fruit aromas and fragrant perfume notes; a truly sexy developing bouquet. The palate is fluid, medium-plus bodied, yet intense and powerful with layers of ripe plum and blackberry fruit mixed with exotic spices and savoury characters. The finish is long and balanced and beckons your continued attention.

The Story
As the story goes, during a busy day in the winery during harvest, proprietor and part-time forklift driver, Larry Gerelus, accidentally combined fruit from the Tempranillo bloc with the grapes picked from rows 1-4 of their home vineyard Merlot and chaos ensued. However, from chaos comes clarity and thus the fortuitous decision to live with the mistake and see what happens was made. With some later tweaking, via the addition of 8% Cabernet Sauvignon to help add some structure to the otherwise, middleweight wine, the extraordinary finished product more than made-up for Larry's 'mistake'... and the rest, as they say, is history.

Stag's Hollow Winery has long been a producer of some of the Province's most inventive and challenging wines and Cachet No. 03 is the winery's (current) highpoint - a proclamation to the rest of Canada that something special is going on in Okanagan Falls.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

BC Wine Deal: December 4th, 2013

The following VQA wines have been reduced in price at your local participating VQA and BCLDB stores.

Andrew Peller Cabernet Merlot was $14.99 
is now $12.99
Andrew Peller Merlot was $14.99 
is now $12.99
Arrowleaf Pinot Gris was $17.95 
is now $16.95
Bench 1775 Cabernet Merlot was $22.90 
is now $21.90
Cassini Cellars Quattro was $24.90 
is now $19.90
Cedar Creek Merlot was $19.95 
is now $18.95
Cedar Creek Pinot Noir was $24.95 
is now $23.95
Inniskillin Meritage Dark Horse Series was $24.99 
is now $22.99
Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve was $18.99 
is now $16.99
Inniskillin Zinfandel was $25.99 
is now $22.99
Mission Hill Cabernet Merlot Five Vineyards was $16.99 
is now $15.49
Mission Hill Merlot Reserve was $24.99 
is now $22.99
Mission Hill Pinot Noir Five Vineyards was $18.99 
is now $17.99
Mission Hill Sauvignon Five Vineyards was $14.99 
is now $13.99
Mission Hill Sauvignon Reserve was $19.99 
is now $17.99
Open Sociable Sparkling was $14.99 
is now $12.99
Prospect Fats Johnson Pinot Noir was $16.99 
is now $14.99
Prospect Shiraz was $15.99 
is now $14.99
Rigamarole Red was $14.99 
is now $12.99
Red Rooster Pinot Blanc was $16.99 
is now $14.99
Sandhill Chardonnay was $17.99 
is now $15.99
Sandhill Rose was $17.99 
is now $13.99
See Ya Later Ranch Brut was $22.99 
is now $20.99
See Ya Later Ranch Ping was $27.99 
is now $24.99
See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Gris was $19.99 
is now $17.99
See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Noir was $22.00 
is now $20.00Stellar's Jay Brut was $24.99 is now $22.49
Sumac Ridge Cabernet Merlot was $14.99 is now $12.99
Sumac Ridge Gewurztraminer was $14.99 
is now $12.99
Tinhorn Creek Merlot was $19.99 is now $18.99
Jackson Triggs Cabernet Sauvignon Black Series was $16.99 
is now $14.99
Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc Black Series was $13.99 
is now $11.99

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Monthly Picks: December 2013

Stock your cellar with red blen-nds. 
Fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
'Tis the season for great frien-nds. 
Fa-la-la-la-la la la la la. 
Drink us now our Meritage? 
Fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.
BC's Best! (So I allege.) 
Fa-la-la-la-la la la la la. 

Merry Meritage everyone and to everyone a happy new blend!

Stag's Hollow Winery 2011 Heritage Block - $25
The 2011 edition sees 56% Merlot (smoky, mixed berry fruit) and 37% Cabernet Franc (providing the lovely floral and perfumed aromas) supported by 7% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in American and French oak barrels for 18 months. The resulting wine is both fruity and serious with a smooth, sultry textured mid-palate and a long, mouth-watering finish with lingering spice and blackberry flavours.
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Fort Berens Estate Winery 2011 Meritage - $28
Grapes from both the Fraser Canyon home vineyard and from the famed Sundial vineyard along the Black Sage Bench were sourced for this year's blend of 47% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Cabernet Franc which delivers warm, mixed-berry, plum, crushed violet and mineral aromas enveloped by complimentary oak and light spice notes. (nailed it!)
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River Stone Estate Winery 2010 Corner Stone - $28.50
Round, ripe and robust, this blend of 59% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc offers mixed berry fruit, spicy licorice and light mint aromas enhanced by mild oak and sweet aromatic notes on the soothing and pleasant nose.
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Howling Bluff Estate Winery 2010 Summa Quies Vineyard Sin Cera - $29
A blend of all five Bordeaux varietals and aged in French oak for 18 months, the Sin Cera is an irresistible femme fatale that jumps out of the glass with potent, yet graceful, feminine aromas of baked cherry and blackberry fruit, plum preserve, cooking spice, sweet licorice, vanilla, toasted oak and holds your attention through to the equally seductive, fine tannin and similarly flavoured palate.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2010 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red - $30
The 2010 blend consists of 41% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot aged for 18 months in French oak creating a complex and smoky textured palate endowed with blue fruit, light mineral and toasted oak flavours supported by fine tannins and well balanced acidity.
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Perseus Winery 2010 Select Lots Invictus - $33
Concentrated and dense, the Invictus, Perseus Winery's take on a Meritage blend of 56% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec, is rich in dark fruit aromas like cassis and blackberry with menthol, vanilla and pipe tobacco notes adding complexity.
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Fairview Cellars 2010 The Bear - $35
Despite its cool vintage pedigree, this blend of all 5 primary Bordeaux varietals boasts ripe blackberry, cassis and plum fruit on both the nose and palate with Fairview's signature oak program influenced notes adding depth and complexity.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2010 Red Icon - $55
The 2010 sees 39% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 18% Petit Verdot, 11% Malbec and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon blended to produce an aromatic nose of dark berries, violets, mint, licorice, cedar and dark chocolate aromas while the dry palate charms with intense dark fruit puree flavours supported by fine tannins, mouth-watering acidity, warm earth and toasted oak notes.
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Black Hills Estate Winery 2011 Nota Bene - $55
 blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, all sourced from their famed Black Sage Bench estate vineyard which imparts an herbal quality to the wine augmenting the classic Meritage profile of black currant, blackberry, fresh tobacco leaf and dark plum aromas and flavours.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013