Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Icon Wine(s) of the Year

For the first time we have a co-winner of our Icon Wine of the Year award; two excellent Syrahs with a similar story:

The Story
Both Syrah hail from estate wineries best known for producing big, bold, Bordeaux-styled, iconic red blends (Painted Rock's Red Icon and Black Hills' Nota Bene) yet, over the past few years, it is the house Syrah that I have found made a more lasting impression and are wines I would most often recommend, not as a consolation to the sold-out blends, but as a signature of quality for the winery and as an example of the heights this peppery, Rhone Valley grape can achieve in BC.

Syrah is handled with care in the vineyard, by both wineries, where the quality of the future wine is determined. Syrah needs constant care in the vineyard as it can grow wildly if left to its own devices and can get hit hard by BC's harshest winters.

Talking to vineyard staff about growing Syrah in BC is like discussing the ailment history of a self-diagnosing hypochondriac: you'll get a laundry list of complaints about keeping the vines healthy - even in good-weather years. Mention a particularly cold season to a vineyard manager, like the frost-heavy 2008 winter, and from the horror stories you'll hear, you'll be amazed that the vines survive at all.

Red Icon and Nota Bene have earned the hype these wines receive, but there is more to their producers than these well-promoted, 'flagship' wines, and it's their Syrah you will secretly crave and collect.

The Wines

Black Hills Estate Winery 2015 Syrah - 92+pts
Fantastical concentration in this Black Sage Bench sourced Syrah with deep, black cherry and sensual, floral aromas on the generous nose and oak-kissed layers of black cherry, mint, pepper, tobacco and blood orange flavours on the smoky, fine tannin palate. Simply gorgeous.

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2015 Syrah - 92-93pts
This youthful Syrah displays ripe cherry and plum fruit with integrated white pepper, pepperoni and floral aromas followed on the dry, grippy-tannin palate with similar flavours and added layers of blood orange, mint and vanilla.

Previous Winners

  • 2016 - Cassini Cellars 2013 The Aristocrat
  • 2015 - Le Vieux Pin 2012 Équinoxe Syrah
  • 2014 - Painted Rock 2012 Red Icon
  • 2013 Stag's Hollow Winery 2010 Cachet No. 03
  • 2012 - Painted Rock Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay
  • 2011 Fairview Cellars 2009 The Wrath
  • 2010 - Stratus Vineyards 2007 Red
  • 2009 Blackwood Lane Winery 2006 Alliance

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Featured Wines: When Tuscans Attack!

If the wine in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email ( or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's newest location River District in South Vancouver (8570 River District Crossing).

When Tuscans Attack!

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, your lights are red and yellow,
Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, we drank all our Brunello!
And now we’re sad, and thirsty too,
We’re going to take it out on you!
Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, we’ll cover you with Jello!

Stop the madness. Put the Jello down. I have more Tuscan wines for you to enjoy while you decorate:

Sassicaia 2014, Bolgheri Sassicaia
The first Supertuscan, and the first Italian winery to become a Monopole (where one winery owns the entire appellation), although to be fair, the appellation of Bolgheri Sassicaia DOCG was created for them in the ‘90s, partially to recognize Sassicaia’s 4 decades under the official bus while they were unofficially kicking butt. 2014 was a challenging year in all of Italy, but it was kinder to Bolgheri, given that late-ripening grapes like Cabernet (a star ingredient of the appellation) were able to wait out the weather and still make rich wine. This year’s Sassicaia is a kind of throwback to Old World vibes, elegant and Médocaine with spicy red and black fruit surrounding the flinty delivery. Sniper-like precision on the finish, balancing the minerality, acid, tannin and glycerine that will all come together perfectly in just a few years. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 93 points Robert Parker, 5 wooden 6-packs available, $219.49

Antinori Tignanello 2014, Toscana I.G.T. 
The second Supertuscan, although many consider it to be the first one, because a) nobody cared about Sassicaia until they beat a Bordeaux in a blind tasting in the ‘80s and b) the nontraditional Tig made more of an impact given the 900 year history of the Antinoris telling everyone how traditional they should be. The 2014 vintage separated the experts from the tourists, and the Antinoris are certainly no tourists: severe canopy management and green harvests wrested a bold wine from the jaws of dilution, and elevating the levels of Cabernet Sauvignon (sitting at a high of 25%) added enough oomph to produce a delicious, rich but classically hued Tig that only dropped one Wine Spectator point from last year’s hallowed Top Ten 2013. 94 points James Suckling, 93 points Wine Spectator, 10 6-packs available, $92.99

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2012
You know that part of the concert when the band stops playing their new stuff and starts playing the songs you went to go hear? Il Poggione. Equal parts Traditional and Modern, delivering just enough stony structure to offset Dr. Smooth’s Pleasure Train that rolls down the tracks shooting dried cherries and black Twizzlers out of T shirt cannons. Will be even better in a year but no one will be penalized for impatience either. Delicious. 95+ points Robert Parker, 8 6-packs available, $87.99

2017 Top 5: Red Blends

For the 2017 awards season, in addition to our Top 20 list and singular Icon Wine of the Year, we're including a celebration of the best wines in a few select categories. Here are our Top 5 Red Blends of 2017:

1. Painted Rock Estate Winery 2015 Red Icon - 93pts
Always complex and layered, look for brambly berries, cool cassis, licorice'n'mint, fresh tobaco, spiced herbs and brooding, smokey oak notes on the glass escaping nose and the elegant, dry palate where fine, grippy tannins linger on a long, spicy finish.

2. La Frenz Winery 2014 Grand Total Reserve - 91-93pts
Built for the long-haul, with excellent concentration and refined, youthful tannins, this blend of 42% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc delivers an intense and powerful nose of dark fruits, menthol, Christmas spices, toasted oak with a hint of sweetness emanating from the ripe fruit aromas.

3. Upper Bench Estate Winery 2014 Yard Wine - 92+pts
For this beautifully aromatic and intensely dark blend, Upper Bench co-fermented Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes (a 70/30 split, respectively) and then aged them in 25% new French oak barrels for 18 months prior to bottling. The finished wine is equal parts 'pretty' and 'dark' with eucalyptus-mint, spicy cocoa and black cherry-cassis notes on the sensual nose and brooding, blackberry, cola, cocoa, toasted oak and minty flavours on the well-balanced, fine-tannin palate.

4. Cassini Cellars 2014 Maximus - 92+pts
This is a Meritage-style, big'n'bold red that excels in long, hot vintages (not that surprising for Bordeaux varieties) and 2014 was just such a vintage in the Southern Okanagan. The latest Maximus is comprised of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec offering a dark and brooding nose of black licorice, menthol, cassis liqueur, blackberries, toasted vanilla, tobacco and light spices. 

5. LaStella 2014 Espressivo - 92pts
 Offers a feminine-earthy profile, on the herbaceous, floral and brambly berry nose and on the medium-bodied, concentrated palate graced with vanilla'n'spice-kissed berry flavours and framed by mouth-watering, yet, effortless acidity and engaging, yet, refined tannins.

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017 Top 5: Chardonnay

For the 2017 awards season, in addition to our Top 20 list and singular Icon Wine of the Year, we're including a celebration of the best wines in a few select categories. Here are our Top 5 Chardonnay of 2017:

1. JoieFarm 2015 "En Famille" Reserve Chardonnay - 90+pts
A hedonistic, barrel fermented Chardonnay sourced from Skaha Bluff and Naramata Bench vineyards with layers of melon, orchard and citrus fruit mixed with  savoury characters of nuts, vanilla bean and oak on the buttery nose and briny palate.
Full Review

2. Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards 2014 Chalk Hill Chardonnay - 90pts
A wonderfully balanced Chardonnay with a solid mineral backbone on the joyful, sweetly-comforting, baked aroma scented nose and the refreshing, orchard and citrus fruit infused, full-bodied, oak-kissed palate. Finish is moderate-plus with some lingering spice, lemon peel and 'hot' alcohol notes.
Full Review

3. Liquidity Wines 2015 Chardonnay - 90pts
Subtle oak and partial malolactic fermentation notes frame the characteristics of the estate-sourced fruit nicely; medium intense, pear, peach and papaya fruits, light herbs and macadamia nut aromas and flavours with crisp, citrus acidity.
Full Review

4. Taken Wine Co. 2014 Complicated Chardonnay - 90pts
A well-structured and balanced Chardonnay with a lifted nose of fresh, orchard fruit and Spring blossoms with light mineral and oak notes adding depth. Full-ish palate is clean and crisp with mouth-watering acidity and plenty of citrus and peach flavours. Just a kiss of oak contact lingers on the moderate finish.
Full Review

5. Upper Bench Estate Winery 2016 Chardonnay - 90pts
A nice degree of opulence is on offer with mineral notes and vivacious stonefruit acidity present to keep the finish refreshing and balanced. Melon, peach and macadamia nut aromas and flavours throughout.
Full Review

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2017 Top 5: Rosé

For the 2017 awards season, in addition to our Top 20 list and singular Icon Wine of the Year, we're including a celebration of the best wines in a few select categories. Here are our Top 5 Rosé of 2017:

1. Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars 2013 Brut Rosé - 91pts
A gorgeous nose of honey-kissed scones, grape seeds, raspberries and lees gives way to the dry palate, loaded with strawberry shortcake and light cinnamon applesauce flavours and texture to spare. Drink now or hold for 3-4 more years.
Full Review

2. Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2016 Oldfield Reserve Rosé - 90pts
A very attractive rosé made with 100% Cabernet Franc, with a gentle, orange-salmon hue, a joyful, berry and sweet herb scented nose and a well-balanced, off-dry and mouth watering palate where tangy, rhubarb and citrus characters blend, effortlessly, with ripe strawberry fruit and watermelon Jolly Rancher candy flavours.
Full Review

3. Le Vieux Pin 2016 Vaila - 89pts
This blend of 100% Pinot Noir grapes, sourced from the multiple Okanagan Valley regions, is dry and refreshing with excellent texture and a delicious profile of rhubarb, kiwi, cranberry, raspberry seed and layers of citrus fruit. The finish is long and mouth-watering.
Full Review

4. Black Hills Estate Winery 2016 Rosé - 89pts
The first vintage of Black Hills' Rosé suggests the Southern Okanagan winery did its homework before joining the trend, producing a beautiful, 100% Pinot Noir blush with an attractive, watermelon-pink hue and offering a range of strawberry-citrus and rhubarb-herb aromas and flavours.
Full Review

5. Stag's Hollow Winery 2016 Syrah Grenache Rosé - 89pts
A blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache sourced from multiple sites in the Okanagan Valley grown specifically for this aromatic and lively rosé. Excellent texture on the red fruit driven, well-balanced palate with added herbs and spice flavours and brisk, mouth-watering, citrus acidity.
Full Review

- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

2017 Top 5: Pinot Noir

For the 2017 awards season, in addition to our Top 20 list and singular Icon Wine of the Year, we're including a celebration of the best wines in a few select categories. Here are our Top 5 Pinot Noir of 2017:

1. SpierHead Winery 2015 Pinot Noir Cuvée - 91pts
Rich and engaging on the vanilla-kissed, cherry-raspberry-earth scented nose and on the similarly flavoured, medium-plus bodied palate. Well-structured with smooth, slightly-earthy tannins and fine, berry acidity and finishes long with a touch of spice and lingering Black Forest cake notes, a signature of the label.
Full Review

2. Bethel Heights Vineyard 2014 Estate Pinot Noir - 91pts
A blend of the winery's different Pinot blocks from their 100 acres vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of Willamette Valley. Quite robust, for a Pinot, with a classic, earthy/red-fruit base, dialled up to "11", and a medley of surprisingly compatible sweet and austere notes. Sure to please Pinotphilesboth traditional and adventurous.
Full Review

3. Meyer Family Vineyards 2015 McLean Creek Road Vineyard Pinot Noir - 90-91pts
Sourced from the winery's home vineyard in Okanagan Falls, this is a rich and hedonistic Pinot Noir with harmonious dark fruit, sensual herbs and rustic earth aromas on the nose. The dark fruit and earth theme continues through to the medium-plus bodied palate, nicely balanced with fresh blackberry acidity and supported by silky, fine tannins.
Full Review

4. JoieFarm 2015 "En Famille" Reserve Pinot Noir - 90pts
Opens with a generous nose of raspberry, potpourri and sweet spices followed by a bright, dry palate of raspberry flesh and seed flavours with savourytidbits of smoky pepper and cocoa notes adding depth. Fine, light tannins and mouth-watering acidity make this Pinot a friend to beef stews and game dishes. 
Full Review

5. Eagle Bluff Vineyards 2015 Crooked Post Pinot Noir - 90pts
Fairview's approachable-now, medium-everything Pinot Noir, produced under the Eagle Bluff Vineyards label, offers a nice blend of ripe and brambly red fruits with layers of earthy and savoury notes; cherry, raspberry skin, huckleberry, sun-warmed rocky soil and mellow spice. Acid is on-point and punctuates the long finish where light herbs and spice linger.
Full Review

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

Featured Wines: The U.S and Yah!

If the wine in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email ( or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's newest location River District in South Vancouver (8570 River District Crossing).

The U.S and Yah!

Hi Everyone!

My trip to US wine regions last week was outstanding and unforgettable, but we did have to make a last minute change to our plans. Napa and Sonoma were originally on our itinerary, but with all of the devastation that this last month has wrought, we felt that imposing on their hospitality would be wrong, especially while so many people are still hurting, so we went further south (Paso Robles and Santa Barbara). I met with an Oregonian winemaker a couple days ago who showed me a video that a fellow winemaker from Sonoma had filmed from his backyard this week: a giant red nighttime blaze on a mountain with a bright yellow flaming core in the middle of it. California is still warm and dry, and new fires are still a risk.

There has, perhaps logically, been a bit of a run on Napa/Sonoma wines lately, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Nearly everything but Cabernet was harvested before the fires, wineries that weren’t damaged (which is most of them) periodically lost power and thus control over the speed and nature of their fermentations, but wholesale vintage spoilages haven’t been widely reported – winemakers are, by nature, adaptable. We still have two or three vintages in bottle waiting to come to market before we get to 2017, so any shortage that this year may incur wouldn’t be felt for a while. If you need a reason to stockpile Californian wine (besides its deliciosity), do it because NAFTA may fall apart and we’ll be smuggling in Caymus over the Cascades on the back of a mule.

“But won’t the prices go up?” I’ve been asked, more than a few times. Yep, for sure. They were going to anyway. Next year many North Coast wineries will roll from an outstanding vintage (2014) into another perfect vintage (2015), two years after the vintage that Robert Parker called Napa’s best ever (2013). The international markets have noticed and worldwide demand has skyrocketed, pushing prices into classified Bordeaux territory. Napa and Sonoma belong to the world now, but that’s no reason to stop visiting them or to stop drinking their amazing wines – in fact they’ll need us to do that more than ever, going forward (and 2015 was a stellar vintage up and down the west coast as well).

Here are some great US red wines for your kind consideration:

Sea Smoke 2015 “Ten” Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, California
This Pinot wants to eat your Pinot. When you drive through the Santa Ynez valley in daylight, on the other side of the mountains from Santa Barbara, you wonder how Pinot Noir can even survive here: blazing sun and 38C weather (in late October!). But at night the Pacific winds flush all the hot air out of the valley to provide those cool nights that Pinot adores. The day’s sun ripens these grapes to Wrestlemania proportions, however, and the mighty Sea Smoke “Ten” (which is the number of fingers you have in the air when you surrender to it) is a perfectly huge specimen. Chocolate, cola, and squished blueberries are surrounded by floral notes; there is ample elegance here on the finish, it’s not just clumsy power, and the finish skirts perpetuity. Almost viciously popular and rare, this is the largest amount of this cult wine that I’ve ever been able to offer. No ratings found (yet), 5 6-packs available, $162.49 +tax

Bootleg 2013, Napa Valley, California
Offered before in a previous vintage, this 2013 Cabernet-driven blend (Petite Sirah and Zinfandel are vocal passengers) drives into Prisoner territory and then leaves it in the dust. Deep, round and surrounded by just enough structure to hold it in, with crème de cassis and minty notes gently drawing you into the Pleasure-Dome. Sourced from the fabled Stagecoach vineyard before Gallo bought it (and before it partly burnt, alas), Bootleg is richly dark and unexplainably great value. Would have been a Back Up The Truck wine if I’d been able to get more. 94 points Robert Parker, 6 cases available, $54.49 +tax

Elk Cove 2015 La Boheme Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon
The Willamette valley is stunning in October, the Pinot leaves turn yellow and the hills look like their grandma knit them a sweater. Planted in 1985, the La Boheme vineyard is one of the highest up in the valley (800ft elevation), and has provided the Campbell family of Elk Cove (I’ve been there and found it bereft of both elks and coves) with gorgeous fruit that truly epitomizes the word Pretty. Some of the most aromatic, expressive Pinot in Oregon is grown here, I smelled it for 20 minutes before drinking it, and the ideal 2015 vintage boosted the red raspberry freshness to mingle with the violets and topsoil. You could cellar this reliably, but you could also work hard and do homework all your life without ever learning to finger-paint. I’m drinking this now (after a long sniff). 92 points Robert Parker, 3 6-packs available, $74.99 +tax

Caymus 2014 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California

Certainly no stranger to these pages, or to most of your cellars, the “Napa Cab That Got Everyone Into Napa Cabs” returns with intensity and body to spare. Black Twizzlers duel with red ones on a cedar plank by throwing ripe blackberries at each other until they both fall down, bottled. 6 wooden 6-packs available, $199.99 +tax

Friday, September 29, 2017

Try This, Cellar That - Le Vieux Pin Syrah

About seven years ago, Black Sage Bench's Le Vieux Pin began to re-brand itself as a Rhome Valley homage and slowly replaced their popular Burgundy varietal wines with multiple Syrah labels and other Rhone-inspired wines. Here are two Syrah releases from 2017 to compare; one for now and one for later.

Try This...

Le Vieux Pin 2015 "Cuvée Violette" Syrah - $29
Sourced from multiple, distinct Southern Okanagan Valley sub-appellations and blended together with 1% Roussanne to create a feminine Syrah with cherry and black raspberry fruit, aromatic, floral notes and a layer of sensual, savoury characters: white pepper, vanilla, green olives and sweet incense throughout.
Icon Score

Cellar That...
Le Vieux Pin 2014 Équinoxe Syrah - $24
Always in the debate for BC's best Syrah, this year's Équinoxe benefited from the near-perfect 2014 vintage (for big reds) creating a stunning wine of refinement and powerful elegance. Densely packed, yet approachable with layers of black cherry, ripe blackberry, white pepper, red plum, pipe tobacco, nectar, mild licorice and violet notes on the enchanting nose and the spicy, cola'n'cocoa nibs infused palate where ultra-fine, slightly smoky tannins and smooth, berry acidity add structure and length.
Icon Score

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


If the wine in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email ( or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's newest location River District in South Vancouver (8570 River District Crossing).


(Sung to the tune of the theme song of Shaft)

Who’s the thick-skinned grape that’s a hit with all the folks who rate? (Cab!) You’re darn right.
Who has the tannin that could do a lesser man in? (Cab!) Cab you dig it?
Who’s got body so mighty, it slays all other varieties? (Cab!) Right on.
It’s a complicated grape, but no one understands it like…

Honestly I’m surprised you let me get this far, my apologies to all those who are still reading this email. Here are a few 2014 vintage Cabernet-based wines from the U.S. and France:

Joseph Phelps 2014 Insignia, Napa Valley
One of Napa’s Crown Princes, from the middle of the region’s golden streak of vintages, ironically elevated by the long drought. I had the opportunity to taste this vintage alongside the previous 2013, and the differences are slight but noticeable. The ’13 has a more friendly fruit weight but the ’14 is structured, dense and timeless, perhaps due to the rare omission of Merlot in that year’s blend. As close as Insignia has come to the “classic Napa” style in some time, with chocolate and coffee notes bracing the “Night Of A Thousand Berries” nose that is so characteristically Phelps. 2014 is Motorhead compared with 2013’s Elton John, focused and hardcore, not really caring what you think of it… yet. Another Insignia for the ages. 97 points Vinous, 97 points James Suckling, 96 points Robert Parker, 4 6-packs available, $354.99 +tax

Sheridan 2014 “L’Orage” Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Washington State
I’m now conditioned to salivate every time I see a 2014 Washington wine, but L’Orage additionally brings a kind of Rutherford-y thickness to the flinty structure usually prominent in Washington Cabs. Blended with a nano-smidge of Cabernet Franc, this beast is all sourced from owner/winemaker Scott Greer’s hilltop estate in the Yakima Valley where, if the finish of this wine is any indication, he must also produce rocket launchers. There is nothing restrained or conservative about the nose and body -  dark berry preserves stirred with cinnamon sticks and pipe tobacco baked into a weird pie - the “classic Washington” vibes only enter at the end, where the fine tannins try to contain the glycerin, the same way a kiddie pool tries to contain a bunch of otters. Wondrous stuff, this. 96 points Robert Parker, 3 6-packs available, $73.99 +tax

Chateau Landiras 2014, Graves, Bordeaux
Ok, I’m cheating because this is a little over half Merlot, but the Cabernet Sauvignon in this blend punches well above its percentage and commands the nose, bursting with cassis, licorice, kirsch and fresh redcurrants. The lift and tannic structure on the finish reveal the youth of the vintage (the French would call this finish “crunchy” because they are French), but Landiras, a new-ish winery started by Bordeaux architect Michel Pelisse, can drink well now with food, or cellar for another decade. Terrific value on this, with a body to match. We’ll be pouring this on Saturday at 3pm in the River District Vintage Room if you’d like to try it (we’ll also be pouring a few other Bordeaux wines TBA). 95 points Decanter, Platinum Medal Decanter World Wine Awards, 10 cases available, $42.99 +tax

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Featured Wines: The Italian Argument

If the wine in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email ( or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's newest location River District in South Vancouver (8570 River District Crossing).

The Italian Argument

My friend (and wine importer) Massimo is so Italian, I sometimes feel like asking him to tone it down a bit. When he does Vintage Room tastings, he dons his baby-blue velour blazer, unfurls the red-and-white checkered tablecloth, and puts out the bread, the cheese, and the salami that he drove to East Van to buy (“always so bad the traffic, Jordan”). He knows the families behind each of the wines that he pours, and purrs out the hyper-syllabic place names like arpeggios; he is simultaneously 100% legit and one step away from hopping onto a turtle shell to go save the princess. Sometimes when he’s pouring I step back, out of the Vintage Room, to observe the people he’s serving to see if they get the same –

“Hello, Jordan.” It came from behind me, a familiar voice with an accent that was similar to Massimo’s, if somewhat time-worn. It was Vito.

Vito is, well, the other Italian importer that I buy a lot of wine from (and who also does tastings with cheese and bread and tablecloths – it’s like the Aloha of Italy, I guess). In fact, I’ve been buying from Vito since long before there I knew there were Massimos (Vito has been in Canada a lot longer), and maybe that explains my sheepish expression when I turned around to face him. Despite the fact that I support both of these importers equally and despite the fact that – last time I checked – I’m a grown man, I felt guilty, like I got caught cheating on Vito with Massimo. After I made small talk with Vito for a couple minutes, he announced that he was going to go say hi to Massimo, and I promptly ran away, just as a grown man would do.

As I pretended to do important things in the rest of the store, I talked myself down. You have Vito pouring in the Vintage Room all the time, I told me. Vito’s been here a long time, probably doesn’t even have a temper anymore, I continued. You’re 43 years old and you can buy wine from whomever, it’s all good, you’re such a professional, I said. It was working. I felt better. My friend Rick was standing at the tasting bar looking into the Vintage Room and beckoned me over, “you’ve got to see this”, he said. My anxieties returned like booming car stereos.

It looked initially like they were trying to swat many flies away from each other’s heads. Vito and Massimo were gesticulating wildly at one another, raising and lowering their pitches accordingly. I don’t know what they were arguing about (I no habla Italian) but I got the sickening feeling that I’d put a Japanese Fighting Fish in the same tank as another Japanese Fighting Fish. I had to do something before it came to blows, so – like a grownup – I ran away further into the back.

After dusting the same bottle for 10 minutes I figured the coast was clear, and emerged cautiously from the back and went into the Vintage Room where Massimo was pleasantly whistling. Vito was gone. “What was that about?” I asked Massimo, who blinked at me for a beat before asking “what you mean, Jordan?” “I mean, what were you and Vito talking about?” I clarified. Massimo blinked at the table, then the ground, then his own hand, “I think the weather?” he shrugged. After I pushed a little further, Massimo divulged, with a puzzled look, that they’d maybe discussed soccer a bit. They weren’t fighting, they weren’t even disagreeing, that is just how a couple of Italian guys talk to each other.

That kind of passion pervades every Italian conversation, but it can be weaponized when applied to things that really matter, like wine. Throughout most Italian wine regions, the predominant argument is between those winemakers (and wine drinkers) who adhere to styles and practices handed down to them over centuries, and the restless types who want to use the best techniques from around the world in their own back yard. Between the Traditionalists and the Modernists.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fairview Cellars 2017 Releases

A recent trip to the Okanagan took me through Oliver where I had the pleasure of sampling the wines of Fairview Cellars. Nearly gone, new and soon-to-be released stalwarts of the portfolio were tasted along with a few interesting one-off wines - each with its own story - true to the Fairview brand.

2014 Premier Series Cabernet Sauvignon - $50
Recently removed from the 'available wines' menu in the shop, but you may be able to request a few bottles if you contact the winery soon. Always one of the better Cabernet Sauvignon in BC and the 2014 vintage is one of the best from the Fairview home vineyard since 2007.

2014 Premier Series The Bear - $45
A classic Meritage blend with ripe tannins and higher intensity than recent vintages of the label.

2015 Crooked Post Pinot Noir - $25
A very approachable, rounded Pinot and the best drink-now option of Fairview's portfolio, unless you want to spring for one of the library releases Bill Eggert, Fairview's winemaker and proprietor, makes available occasionally.
Icon Score

2015 Two Hoots - $25
Not yet released. Happily still priced at $25, this wine is a blend from multiple sites in the Southern Okanagan Valler. Roughly a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot. A wine to buy by the case.

2014 Mad Cap Red - $29
A fruit-forward, well-balanced, Merlot-driven alternate to the Two Hoots, though, similarly sourced from multiple vineyards in the Southern Okanagan.

2015 Fumé Franc - $35
In barrel, this Cabernet Franc showed extensive flavour influence from the 2015 fires that ravaged the Okanagan that year. Bottled separately and branded with a unique label immortalizing the fires that gave it its intense, smoky characters. A wine you either will love or hate - not a lot of middle ground on this one (this is why you visit in-person and taste before you buy).

2012 Autre Côté - $65
Another one-off label commemorating the final purchase of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Jean Baptist-managed U2 vineyard along the Black Sage Bench (on the other side of the valley, or d'autre côté). A contract no longer needed as the Fairview-managed, Quail's Wayside vineyard has come into full production. Good fruit + good vintage = good Cabernet.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc - $20
Nicknamed "Bill's Oyster Wine" and it's hard to improve on that association. A crisp, mouth-watering blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon sourced from the Fairview home vineyard and a another local vineyard.

2011 Iconoclast - $120
Sold only in the tasting room, this is the winery's one true Reserve/Barrel Select wine of the best Cabernet Sauvignon each vintageReleased "when ready" the 2011, showing brooding dark and blue fruit on the pruny-nutty nose and the spicy-acerbic, dry palate, has yet to be added to the portfolio, even at 6 years of age, though, this is likely to change soon for a late-Summer 2017 release.
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- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

Featured Wines: Tempranillo The Terrific

If the wine in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email ( or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's newest location River District in South Vancouver (8570 River District Crossing).

Tempranillo The Terrific

Google Images is awesome except when it isn’t. I’ll explain.
A few years ago we were pouring some great Spanish wines at our tasting bar, and my colleague who was running the tasting was about to print a sign for it when she hit a creative wall. She came to see me in the Vintage Room for advice.
“What picture should I use for the Spanish tasting?” she asked.
I was busy. “Um, Spanish people drinking wine”, I said. Boom. I spent the least amount of syllables and calories possible on that answer. Nailed it.
“How many Spanish people?” she replied.
I sunk, slightly. I don’t really care about pictures or signs (my house has pictures in it only because I am married). I care even less about how many imaginary Spaniards are drinking wine without me in a picture on a sign, but now here I am thinking about all of that. Sigh.
“Seven?” I offered out of thin air.
“Why seven?” she replied.
This strategy was clearly not a win for me. “Why don’t you just use a Spanish flag?” I said, closing the lid. My colleague begrudgingly accepted this lame new suggestion, and left to go and look for a Spanish flag on Google Images. I finished my re-stocking, put together some orders, and had started to answer my emails when she came back looking really upset. “That was a horrible idea”, she said.
She told me how an elderly gentleman reacted to her sign, saying that it brought back painful memories, and that the flag was offensive and should be removed.
“Well maybe that guy doesn’t like Spain” I said, because I’m not really that quick.
“No, he WAS Spanish”, she replied. I went and grabbed the sign that she made and looked at the flag. It had the familiar horizontal bands of red, yellow and red, but in place of the royal seal was a freaking gigantic scary black eagle. This was the flag of fascist Spain. This was the flag of Franco. Without speaking, we quickly found a picture of seven Spanish people drinking wine.
General Francisco Franco famously won the Spanish Civil War, the precursor to WWII, but the Spanish remember the next 40 years, when Franco ruled a despotic, isolated, impoverished Spain that became lost in time. Western Europe formed an economic union but Spain didn’t. France, Italy and Germany exported their wine-grape varieties to the burgeoning New World regions but Spain didn’t. It wasn’t until after Franco’s death in 1975 – well after Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir had conquered the globe – that the outside world got a peek at Spain’s glorious, legendary variety: Tempranillo.
What would the modern wine world look like had Franco lost the war? Tough to say: Tempranillo has, in the last couple of decades, proven kind of finicky when planted in expatriated settings – the most prominent attempts in California produced flaccid juice bombs and jug wines. In native Spain, though, the grape sings arias. Thin-skinned and hyper-sensitive to altitude, Tempranillo can play both the masculine and feminine roles: in Rioja Alta (the more traditional region) it can age like Burgundy or Brunello; in the warmer, lower regions like Toro and Ribera del Duero it can achieve the RPMs of the most intense Right Bank Bordeaux.
Here are some outstanding Tempranillo (with one tiny cheat):

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva “904” 2007, Rioja
A glorious returning champion, being as the 2005 vintage was last year’s #1 on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 (we didn’t skip over a year – they didn’t make a 2006). I have taken to calling this wine the Brunello of Spain; it drinks, finishes and cellars accordingly. Cherries, orange peel, vanilla and tobacco precede an intense, bright mouth-feel with a floral lift at the end (perhaps courtesy of the 10% Carignan). Massively gulpable now, but will thrive well into the next decade. One of my very favourite Spanish wines. Come try it to see, we’ll be pouring it this Saturday afternoon in the River District Vintage Room. 97 points James Suckling, 95 points Robert Parker, 4 cases available, $91.99 +tax

Bodegas J A Calvo Casajus “Nik” 2009, Ribera del Duero
Sorry in advance because I won’t have enough - I have the only bottles left in B.C., I’m told. I tried this at Wine Fest and can still taste it – cassis, mineral, spice and searchlight-bright red fruits around the kind of intense, hyper-charged body that 18 moths in new French oak can produce. Yowsers. Famous in Spain, these guys are new on the scene here. I hope they come back soon, with way more wine next time. 97 points Robert Parker, 2 4-packs available (yep they come in 4s), $124.49 +tax

Taylor Fladgate Very Old Single Harvest Port 1967, Douro Valley
Ok, this is the cheat because the blend in this Port is only partially Tempranillo (known locally as Tinto Roriz), but if you drink this you’ll surely forgive me. Grown in the year of Sgt. Pepper, this is nutty, herbaceous glory, braced by toast, licorice and caramel and finishing in a long graceful diminuendo. When we held our Taylor Fladgate Collectors Tasting last November, this 1967 was the clear crowd favourite by a mile. Classified as a Colheita (tawny Port from a single year) rather than a Vintage Port, this is exactly what looking at beautiful things tastes like. 98 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles (in wooden boxes) available, $259.99 +tax

I hope your summer is going super! Until next time,
Happy Drinking!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Try This, Cellar That - Argentinian Malbec

With this edition we showcase Argentinian Malbec:

Try This...

Bodegas Escorihuela 2015 '1884' Reserva Malbec - $18
A doppelganger to the excellent 2014 edition, with a similar profile that combines red and black berries, sweet pipe tobacco, herbs and spice on the feminine nose and medium-plus bodied palate where the long-ish finish is nicely framed by fine, smoky tannins, rounded, berry acidity and lingering spice. Drink now-2019.
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Cellar That...
Rutini Wines 2015 Trupeter Malbe - $21
A graceful, approachable Malbec with evenly matched fruit and savoury characters: blackberry, cherry, charred oak, sweet spice, licorice and fig. Full-ish, with good texture and smooth, smokey tannins. Shows potential for further development over the next 2-3 years.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2017