Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top 20 Value Wines of 2016

We've selected the top 20 wines for 2016 that we feel represent the best value to the consumer. Though all wines selected are priced at $25 or less, with this list we allowed ourselves to be subjective as to what "value" represents. Prices shown do not include taxes unless marked.

#1 - Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars N/V Gold Label Brut - $24

Look for fresh apple pie, lemon meringue and seashell aromas followed by a crisp, mineral-infused mouthfeel with flavours of lemon/lime, unpasteurised honey, peaches, stainless steel and light herbs. Finishes dry with lingering lemon rind and mineral notes. An absolute steal at under $25. Drink now or hold for 5-7 more years.
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#2 - Chateau Des Charmes 2013 Cabernet Franc - $14
An earthy, briny, Cabernet Franc with both fruity and delicate aromas in the form of mixed berries and dried flowers. The smooth, (mostly) dry palate offers fantastic balance for an >15$ wine with fruit and savoury elements existing harmoniously. Wild berry acidity and lingering spices keep the finish vivacious and memorable. Ready to go now.
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#3 - Monte Creek Ranch 2015 Hands Up White - $15
Following a similar recipe as the 2014 edition, the new vintage sees 61% Frontenac Blanc, 25% La Crescent, and 14% Viognier blended to produce a tangy, off-dry wine with an aromatic and orchard fruit-driven nose and a well-balanced, citrus-infused palate with ripe fruit flavours of pear, peach and nectarine. Moderate finish leaves your mouth watering for the next sip.
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#4 - Bench 1775 Winery 2015 Glow Rosé - $20
Salmon-hued and subtly textured, "Glow" is a blend of 75% Malbec, 10.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.3% Syrah and 5.2% Cabernet Franc, produced with minimal skin contact and aged in stainless steel tanks. Finishes long with lingering herb, melon and tangy, tropical fruit notes. Delightful.
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#5 - Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars 2015 Pinot Gris - $21
An excellent, partially oaked Pinot Gris, both refreshing and rich with a nice balance between its crisp, orchard fruit characters and acidity and its creamy texture endowed with savoury notes of herbs, spice, brioche and vanilla bean. Deleightfully complex, especially for the price. 
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#6 - Stag's Hollow Winery 2015 Tragically Vidal - $18
An intense, beautifully-textured, off-dry blend of 89.5% Vidal and 10.5% Orange Muscat that tastes and smells of fresh-off-the-tree peaches and ultra-ripe tropical fruit. Residual sugar is nicely balanced by a wave of citrus acidity and touch of cool mineral and light, dry herb notes. A truly delightful wine with a pure expression of joy that should be shared with friends and family in its youth.
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#7 - Spier 2015 Signature Chenin Blanc - $15
An extremely well-priced Chenin Blanc from the Western Cape with zesty citrus, macadamia nut, Golden Delicious apple and stone fruit aromas on the nose. The palate offers good continuity with a similar profile of both zesty citrus flavours and richer, creamy tones from baked apple/pear and brioche. Refreshing citrus peel, mineral and spice notes linger briefly on the balanced finish.
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#8 - See Ya Later Ranch 2015 Pinot Gris - $15
Light brass in colour, the See-Ya-Later Ranch Pinot Gris is an exceptionally well-priced wine that often goes on sale for $12.99 at the BCLDB stores (plus taxes) offering a slightly, off-dry and unctuous version of BC's most planted white variety.
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#9 - Nederburg Wines 2015 Winemaster's Reserve Sauvignon Blanc - $15
Pungent and refreshing on the nose with fresh oyster minerality and sodium. Tangy gooseberry, crisp citrus and green apple flavours blend nicely on the sharp, mouth-watering palate. A touch of citrus peel and spice lingers on the moderate finish. 
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#10 - KWV Winery 2014 Roodeberg - $14
A cool, masculine, menthol-scented blend of Bordeaux and Rhone grapes with added aromas of dark red fruit, spiced plum sauce and sweet, cured meat. The palate is sprightly with dark fruit and rustic components supported by sweet oak, licorice and light spice flavours. Length and balance are good, especially for the under $15 price-point.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Top 20 Wines of 2016

The format for our Top 20 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 Rated Wines of 2016 list on IconScores.ca. All Top 20 Icon Wines of the Year were released within the calendar year in the BC market. Reviews based on barrel samples were excluded.

#1 - Icon Wines of the Year
Cassini Cellars 2013 The Aristocrat - $40
This is a world class, single-vineyard, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Southern Okanagan showing excellent typicity for the variety and aged in French oak barrels. Look for ripe cassis and elegant vanilla aromas on the nose with some added spicy-savoury notes providing more layers to explore.

#2 - LaStella 2013 La Sophia - $80
Beyond its tell-tale, Southern Okanagan watermark of dried herbs,  LaStella's "La Sophia" is a doppelgänger for the top-end Cabernet Sauvignon that come out of Washington State's Walla Walla Valley. Both complex and ultra-refined with layers of dark fruit, vanilla extract, licorice, sweet coffee grinds, mint and a hint of graphite already developing.

#3 - Painted Rock Estate Winery 2014 Red Icon - $55
Though tasting a little tight and wound-up today, the youthful 2014 Red Icon shows fantastic promise with excellent concentration and depth on the intense, masculine nose and the refined, long-lasting palate. This year's blend is comprised of 33% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 19% Malbec, 16% Petit Verdot and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, each contributing their own unique aromas and flavours to the collective.
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#4 - LaStella 2013 Maestoso "Solo" Merlot - $90
Harmonious layers of ripe, blackberry and dark plum fruit, vanilla fudge, spiced oak, chocolate nibs, dried herbs and light menthol aromas make the developing bouquet as equally compelling as the complex. refined palate. Intense, ultra-ripe, dark fruit dominates, supported by savoury notes; toasted oak, vanilla mocha, smokey tannins and cooking spices. Has the structure to age gracefully, though, with several hours of decanting you can enjoy this wine today.

#5 - Le Vieux Pin 2013 Équinoxe Syrah - $90

A feminine and moody Syrah with densely packed layers of ripe black cherries, peppercorn, spiced plums, licorice, sweet pipe tobacco aromas and lovely floral notes of potpourri, nectar and violets. The palate is equally dense and concentrated, bursting with mouth-watering, cherry-cola and smoky, black pepper flavours with fine tannins and red berry acidity contributing structure and balance.

#6 - JoieFarm 2014 Viognier - $28
A new edition to the JoieFarm portfolio and affixed with a shiny, new label, this is a supple and supremely well-balanced Viognier loaded with apple, honeydew, ripe peach, apricot and citrus flavours. On the nose are similar melon and orchard fruit aromas enhanced by sweet, floral notes and hints of exotic, tropical fruits.
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#7 - La Frenz Winery 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir - $35
Opens with a luxurious nose of big, California-ripe, red fruit aromas which instantly grab your attention, yet, this is BC Pinot Noir, through and through, with layers of both savoury and sensual notes like dried spices, sweet peat, spiced plum, French vanilla cream and dark chocolate. The palate offers a similar fruit-to-savoury ratio with prominent, dark cherry and black plum flavours leading the way, medium-plus weight, fine tannins and effortless, wild berry acidity adding viscosity to the finish and leaving your mouth watering and in-anticipation of the next sip.
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#8 - Le Vieux Pin 2014 "Cuvée Classique" Syrah - $45
The palate is dense and solidly structured with levity coming from blood orange acidity. Good continuity from the nose carries through to the flavour profile with more emphasis put on berry fruit on the entry and peppery spice on the long finish. Ready to go now with more development to come over the next 5-6 years.

#9 - Bench 1775 Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc cl 214 - $27.50
An elegant, sweetly perfumed Cabernet Franc produced from a single clone of the French variety and sourced from the winery's Osoyoos vineyards. Both rich and lively on the palate with refined tannins, concentrated berry fruit, rounded texture, smooth spices, surefooted oak, fresh berry acidity and good length.

#10 - SpierHead Winery 2014 Pinot Noir Cuvée - $32
 Lives up to its billing as the winery's flagship Pinot Noir (they make 2 others), this micro cuvée is blended from select barrels and produces a beautiful wine, rich in complexity and texture. The loving embrace of French oak is felt on the vanilla-kissed, cherry-raspberry nose and on the vibrant, medium-plus bodied, red fruit and tea leaf palate. Structure is solid with silky-smooth tannins and huckleberry acidity. The finish is long and spicy with lingering dark cherry and Black Forest cake flavours.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

2016 Icon Wine of the Year

In a stark contrast to last year's champion, the 2016 Icon Wine of the Year award goes to our most "affordable" winner to date, the Cassini Cellars 2013 The Aristocrat. At only $40, this beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon is a bargain for the quality and refinement in the bottle. Be sure to snap up the remaining 50 cases of this stunner and look for it on the wine lists of the Province's top restaurants.

Some wine writers have proclaimed BC producers should give-up on Cabernet Sauvignon, suggesting the Bordeaux variety is too difficult to rippen in the Okanagan. The wines placing first and second in this year's ranking offer a compelling argument for the folley of that proclomation.

Cassini Cellars 2013 The Aristocrat
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
$40 - 290 cases - 15%

Congratulations to our runner-ups for this year's Icon Wine of the Year award: the LaStella 2013 La Sophia and the Painted Rock 2014 Red Icon.

The Wine
This is a world class Cabernet Sauvignon from the Southern Okanagan showing excellent typicity for the variety. Look for ripe cassis and elegant vanilla aromas on the nose with some added spicy-savoury notes providing more layers to explore. As with the 2012 vintage, the distinct, (and memory-triggering) aroma of warm Fig Newton cookies is again present.

The dry palate that follows is both uber-refined and rich in texture with a similar flavour profile and silky-smooth, yet, grippy tannins. The finish is long and expertly balanced. Though the residual alcohol clocks in at a whopping 15% it is so seamlessly integrated, it goes unnoticed, as it should.

The Story
The grapes for The Aristocrat were sourced from the Milestone vineyard situated along the east side of Osoyoos Lake, restricted to a low yeild of 2.6 tones per acre. A sun-drenched site consisting of a mix of sand and gravel soils. As winemaker and proprietor, Adrian Cassini's program for his Cabernet is attentively detailed and work intensive:

"I fermented on skins for 50 days in small batches. Punched down by hand 4 times a day to avoid the bitterness of pump-overs and then aged for 24 months in new barrels: 95 % French and 5% American oak. Very tight grain wood, a mix of 7 coopers for complexity. Ageing 24 months is a pain on our cash flow but the results are here.

Yes, they are!
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2016 IconWines.ca