Sunday, September 17, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 8 and 4th, part 4 at 8th Generation...something like that

On the recommendation from Heaven's Gate, down to 8th Generation where we had not been in many years. We were pretty unimpressed with most of their wines on our last visit, but they've had lots of time to improve, and so have we! Let's see how things turned out this time.

Beautiful new tasting room (not that new, open for a couple years but new to us).

8th Generation 2016 Chardonnay Barrique ($20.00)

Lots of stone fruit, apple and melon on the nose. Beautiful, round palate with notes of toasty oak, nectarine, hazelnut and a hint of butterscotch. Not a huge buttery Chardonnay but really beautiful and a great deal. 89.

8th Generation 2016 Riesling Classic ($19.50)

Intense notes of lemon, green apple and minerality on the nose. Apples dominate the palate, both red and green. Strong backbone of minerality. Would be a beautiful food wine and should improve with further aging. 89.

8th Generation 2015 Riesling Selection ($25.50)

Red apple, melon, lemon and minerality on the nose. Creamy mouthfeel, tons of minerality and a long finish. Open this one well before serving it, aerate and decant it, or lay it down for a few more years. Lots of potential. 89-91.

8th Generation 2016 Riesling ($19.50)

Beautiful nose of tropical fruit, particularly pineapple and passion fruit. Pear, guava, pineapple and stone fruit on the juicy palate. Slightly off-dry and delicious. 90.

8th Generation 2016 Integrity ($21.00)

50% Chardonnay / 25% Pinot Gris / 25% Kerner

Citrus, yeast, apricot and pear on the nose. Citrus, green apple, pineapple and just a touch of honey on the palate. Light bubbles, more of a Prosecco-style than traditional Sparkling. 88.

8th Generation 2015 Cab-Merlot ($22.00)

70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon

Beautiful aromas of vanilla, blackberry, mint, smoke, black pepper and plum. Complex flavors include black cherry, vanilla, bell pepper, black plum, with touches of cassis and cocoa. Very nice and will improve with another 2-3 years of careful cellaring. 89-91.

Thoroughly enjoyed our experience here and we will be back on our next visit to Summerland. Highly recommended, particularly if you are a fan of BC Riesling!

Next up in the Okanagan trip, we are into Penticton for a full portfolio tasting at La Frenz!

And at some point, I still plan to get all my thoughts together on Monday's huge announcement. Still to come!

Friday, September 15, 2017

My turn for theme night, and this one was all about our neighbors to the South


Interestingly, I read a poll recently that for the first time in history (or at least the first time in the 40ish year history of this poll), Canadians have a negative opinion of the United States. Can't imagine what happened to cause that.

Anyhoo.......doesn't mean they don't make some damn great wine and food. I went searching for some very traditional recipes from different corners of the US, and tried to pair them with wines from all around the country, not just a bunch of Napa Cabernet (although an evening full of Napa Cabernet would not be too shabby). Here is what I was able to come up with. Seven guests attended.

The first two courses were paired with a Magnum of 2012 Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay, that I picked up on for $40. I've reviewed it a couple of times, most recently here, and my opinion has not changed. It's delicious, and has some more time to age if you can wait.

Course 1

It was more difficult than you might think to find a traditional New Orleans dish that didn't include shellfish (which would kill my wife and put a damper on the evening). This soup, which I had made previously, was delicious, but was NOT a good pair with the wine. 

 Course 2

These were really terrific, and they went with the wine much better than the above. Still not a perfect pairing, they would have been better off with a Riesling probably. Even my seafood-hating wife loved these. They were made with gluten-free flour and I couldn't tell the difference. 

Course 3

These were tasty but I didn't like the texture of the chicken, it was almost mealy, as if it had marinated too long. They paired well with the wine. I had two vintages of Caymus Zinfandel but when I decanted the wine I wasn't sure if we were going to have too much, so I only decanted the 2014. With the speed that we buried the Magnum of Mer Soleil, it was clear we weren't going to have too much wine, so I served them both. The 2014 decanted for a couple of hours, the 2015 only for 15-20 minutes. 

Caymus Vineyards 2014 Zinfandel (Napa Valley – California) $48.99

Bright fruit aromas of black cherry, blackberry and plum. Smooth and full bodied, but avoids the overly jammy notes that so many Zins can provide. Delicious. 93.

Caymus Vineyards 2015 Zinfandel (Napa Valley - California) $48.99 

So different than the above. Dark raisins, black cherry and a hint of burned popcorn on the nose. Black cherry and dark chocolate on the palate which finishes very well. 92.

Course 4

These were delicious and a bit of a debacle at the same time. Let me explain. I was making the waffles early, first making a gluten-free waffle for my wife. It turned out OK but not great, but I chalked that up to the gluten-free flour. But when I went to make the regular ones, they kept sticking to my really-old-and-cheap waffle iron. So.........thank goodness for Eggo!!!!

That was the debacle. The fried chicken was INCREDIBLE. The only thing I added to the recipe was a touch of dried rosemary just before frying. SO good. I made these with regular flour (gluten free for the wife only) and they were fantastic; so good that I made more the next day, using gluten free flour for both of us, and they weren't quite as good. As I originally thought, the gluten free flour didn't give them quite the same flavor. I'd use the real stuff next time for sure.

We finally left California for both wine pairings and one of them was a fabulous surprise.

Angela Estate 2011 Pinot Noir (Yamhill-Carlton - Oregon) $49.99

We had been saving this for a couple of years and it was a disappointment. Light aromas of cherry and strawberry and flavors to match, with just a hint of herbaceous notes on the finish. 87.

Herman J. Wiemer 2014 Magdalena Vineyar Riesling (Finger Lakes - New York) $38.99USD on

I believe the only description for this would be "WOW". Aromas of white flowers, stone fruit, lemon and lime. Complex flavors include quince, citrus, pineapple, apple and a strong backbone of minerality. I can't imagine how good this might be in a decade or so. It's probably my all-time favorite Riesling already. 94.

Course 5

Philly Cheesesteak with garlic mayo and New England Baked Beans (Pennsylvania/Massachusetts)

Both the sandwiches and beans were terrific. The beans were so good they are going to become a common staple in the house. The recipe came from the 2017 August/September issue of Eating Well magazine, and I can't find it online to link to.

K Vintners 2014 Powerline Syrah (Walla Wally Valley - Washington) $47.99 USD from

They are making some great Syrah in Washington and this one is near the top of the list. Roasted game, dark plum, blackberry, wet earth and black pepper on the nose. Meaty, almost chewy tannins. Flavors of black licorice, blackberry, black pepper, black plum (notice a pattern?). Finishes forever. This one is already a knockout and some further aging will only enhance. A triumph. 94-96.

Maggio Family Vineyards 2015 Petite Sirah (Lodi - California) $16.99

Full disclosure: I did this wine no favors putting it next to that big, beautiful beast above. Still, it held it's own. Aromas of black cherry, raspberry, smoke, and red cherry. Dark fruit, raspberry, oak and smoke on the palate. For the price, a real solid bargain. 90

Course 6

Kansas City Steak with Bacon Cream Sauce and Steamed Asparagus (Missouri)

This could easily have been called "New York Steak" as it's the same thing, but it originated in Kansas City so I went with that, since we already had other stuff from New York. This was my least favorite thing of the night, actually. The bacon cream sauce was fine but the steak just didn't seem right. Should have used Filet Mignon as the recipe called for (but that's not really USA).

We had a Chardonnay ready to open as well, to go with the cream sauce, but we seemed to be running out of steam a bit so we stuck to just one wine for this meal.

Chateau Montelena 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley - California) $74.99

85.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 0.5% Petit Verdot

Aromas of blackberry jam, nutmeg, perfume and plum. Red berries meet your palate right up front, and you'll find some cocoa and mint lurking in the background. Smooth texture and bright acidity. 92.


Baked Alaska (NOT Alaska)

Depending on who you asked, this dish originated at Delmonico's Steak House in New York, or Antoine's, in New Orleans. Either way, it was good but perhaps too much work. Having said that, I ate it over the course of a week and it was fantastic every time. If I made it again, I'd stick to ice cream, the sorbet doesn't really go (other than to make it look cool). This is what it looked like before adding the meringue:

Joseph Phelps 2015 Eisrebe (Napa Valley - California) $55.00 USD 

Made from the Scheurebe grape, this is icewine but not in the way we are used to it. Since it doesn't get cold enough in Napa Valley, they cheat a bit and harvest the wine as late as possible and then freeze the grapes themselves. It's tasty, don't get me wrong, but it's a far cry from the great icewines we get here in BC. Flavors of peach, creme brulée, lemon and honeysuckle. 90.

That's it for now, what a terrific night of friends, food, and wine. Next up: The blockbuster announcement from last Monday that will change the landscape of the BC wine industry forever.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part III, back to the beginning at the Gate of Heaven

......and that's why this winery is called Heaven's Gate.

This was our first visit here, and we were stunned to see such a beautiful space when we pulled up. Look at the beautiful fountain and patio area!

We were warmly greeted by a young man named Tyson, who I assumed was working the counter. He was doing more than that....he just bought the place! And I mean "JUST" bought it, like a week ago. Hey just figured "what the Hell, I have no experience in this industry, let's buy a winery!". LOL.

Well, I wish him the best. Oh, and he's also going to be the winemaker (with help from the former owners' consultant).

He asked for our honest opinion of things which we gave him: the tasting room is nice, bottles are kinda plain, and the glasses in the tasting room are way, way too small. It's tough to get a fair sense of a wine when you can't swirl or smell it properly.

Oh, and the website hasn't been updated in years. YEARS.

On to the wines:

Heaven's Gate 2016 Semillon ($16.43)

Pleasant aromas of guava and white flowers give way to citrus fruit notes on the palate. Juicy and lovely. 88.

Heaven's Gate 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($16.43)

Aromas of gooseberry, nectarine and citrus. Citrus and herb on the palate, with an oily and spicy finish. 88.

Heaven's Gate 2015 Gewurztraminer ($16.43)

I got the impression that even Tyson wasn't that impressed with this one. Lychee, roses and vanilla on the nose. The flavors are....odd. Almost woody, with a lingering aftertaste. 81.

Heaven's Gate 2016 Faith Rosé ($16.43)

Pleasing aromas of cranberry, watermelon, strawberry and raspberry. Flavors of blackberry, raspberry and strawberry. Slightly off-dry and a real nice effort. 88.

Heaven's Gate 2013 Gamay Noir ($18.17)

Raspberry, vanilla and rich, dark cherry on the nose. The palate is light and delicate, with notes of cherry and blackberry. 85.

Heaven's Gate 2013 Malbec ($21.65)

Blackberry and blueberry jam on the nose. Black cherry, rose water and vanilla flavors. Palate is juicy with a decent finish. 86.

Heaven's Gate 2014 Merlot Malbec ($21.65)

Not a blend you see everyday. Blackberry, vanilla, blueberry and oak on the nose. Violets join in at the end and through the palate. Intriguing. 86.

Heaven's Gate 2013 Merlot ($17.30)

Arresting nose of cherry and mocha with a touch of dark chocolate showing up at the end. Lots of oaky vanilla flavors, blackberry, chocolate and black plum joining in. Persistent finish. By far the best of the reds. 89.

As I said above, I wish Tyson the best. There is lots to work with here, particularly with that patio and view. If he can get the wines up just a touch in quality, there is no telling how successful he might be.

Next up: A short break from the Okanagan trip for two exciting new entries in the wine blog: First, last weekend's night of USA themed food and wine which we hosted, and then my thoughts on Monday's announcement that changed the BC wine game forever.

Next up on the Okanagan trip was a winery we had not been to in years, but on Tyson's recommendation, down the hill to 8th Generation!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 2, just down the road to Kalala Organic Estate Winery!

Another winery that pops up on your way out of Kelowna, this was our first visit here as well. Unlike Ciao Bella, however, we were fairly familiar with Kalala's wines, having tasted them at various tastings at our local VQA Store. Let's see how the new stuff stacked up. Prices below DO include taxes (from the website).

Kalala 2015 Pinot Gris ($20.00)

Notes of orchard fruit and tangerine on the nose. Red apple, pear, and a slight touch of spice on the finish. 86.

Kalala 2015 Harmony White ($17.00)

Pinot Gris 45%, Gewürztraminer 30%, Riesling 15% and Auxerrois 10%

Very light notes of tropical fruit on the nose. Flavors of grapefruit and papaya, with a touch of minerality showing up at the end. 86.

Kalala 2014 Pinot Noir ($25.00)

Complex nose of vanilla, red cherry, red licorice, mushroom and earth. Bright, juicy red cherry and red raspberry on the palate, joined by dark chocolate notes on the finish. 87.

Kalala 2013 Aspire ($25.00)

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah

Black cherry, blueberry and clove aromas. Those follow through to the palate, and are joined by notes of black plum. 87.

Dostana 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($45.00)

We have tasted and enjoyed their Dostana Merlot before, but this is the first time we've ever come across the Cab Sauv. From 40 year old vines, aged 2.5 years in American oak. Aromas of mint, black cherry and black plum give way to blackberry, earth and black cherry flavors. Even at 5 years old already, the tannins are gripping. Finishes long. Pair with a big piece of red meat, and if you can lay it down for another few years, you will be rewarded. A nice effort. 89.

Next up: For no particular reason, I'm going to go back to where this trip actually started, in Summerland, at our very first visit to Heaven's Gate Winery! Quite a story to tell at this one....stay tuned!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Okanagan Wine Trip, Part 1, our first ever visit to Ciao Bella!!

So, SO much to report on from last weekend's Okanagan trip. The main event of the trip was the 2nd Annual Quails' Gate Barrel Party.....but lots more great stuff to tell you about, including our first visit to 8-9 wineries.

Just to shake it up a bit, I'm going to present the reviews to you in no particular order. In fact, this review is actually from the LAST winery we visited this trip.

On your way out of Kelowna, if you follow the signs, you can find yourself in a quaint little tasting room (in the kitchen of a remodeled basement suite, in fact) called Ciao Bella Winery. They used to sell their grapes to Arrowleaf, but at some point decided to make it a go on their own. This is the definition of a family-run winery.

The Fiume family - Roberto and Sharon, with children Antonio and Olivia. And dog.

Prices do not include tax.

Ciao Bella 2016 Pinot Grigio ($18.95)

Arresting notes of red apple, citrus and green apple on the nose and palate, followed by a touch of apricot on the finish. Crisp and refreshing. 88.

Ciao Bella 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé ($19.95)

A nose of watermelon, strawberry and rhubarb. The palate mirrors the nose, with a hint of raspberry thrown in for good measure. Perfectly pleasant and if you are a bigger fan of watermelon than I am, you will enjoy. 87.

Ciao Bella 2015 Pinot Nero (Noir) ($24.95)

Pleasant aromas of black cherry, blackberry and mocha. The palate is complex, with blackberry flavors dominating notes of vanilla, smoke and dark chocolate. Very terroir-driven, as this is only one of two Pinots we sampled this trip that features dark chocolate flavors. The other one was their next-door neighbor. 88.

Their only other offering was a 2014 Pinot Nero, which was named Best Pinot Noir at the Spring Wine Festival. We didn't get to taste it, but picked up a bottle anyway and I'll let you know how we liked it once we have opened it.

Sharon couldn't have been friendlier, and the wines show tremendous promise. Drop by if you are in the neighborhood!

Up next: we'll go down the road to their closest neighbor, Kalala!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Time to give Trump DAS BOOT....but until then, let's talk about German wine....

...and given the current political climate in the country directly south of us, I'm going to refrain from making the obligatory jokes about Germany and their past history of being......say......not so nice.....

But they are nice now. Who would have ever thought we would live to see the day that the Chancellor of Germany would be the de facto "Leader of the free world"?? Hitler just rolled over in his grave.

And I mean ACTUAL Hitler, not the buffoon currently occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Our most recent "theme" night, as our dear friends hosted a simply fabulous night of German food and wine. Now, I'm fairly familiar with German wine, but when I think "Germany", well, great food doesn't necessarily jump to mind. That was about to change.

Prices listed below are estimates.

Erster Kurs (first course)

The wine beer: German wheat beer

Not a beer guy at all, but this was pretty damn good and it went beautifully with the pretzels, which were the best I've ever had. By a mile. Even though I knew there was a lot of food coming, I had to have a couple of these. Incredible.

For fun, we opened up this adorable little bottle:

Moselland Black Cat 2015 Riesling, Qualitatswein Rhein ($11ish)

Sure, it's a gimmicky bottle, but the wine was  tasty. Not particularly sophisticated, but perfectly flavorful. Green apple, pear and minerality abound. 86.

Zweiter Kurs

The wine:

Domdechant Werner'sches Weingut 2009 Hochheimer Holle Riesling Kabinett ($25ish)

Nice pairing with this delicious dip. Lots of petrol aromas developing as this bottle nears a decade. Fruity and well-balanced acidity, flavors of pineapple and a hint of spice at the end. 88.

Dritter Kurs

The wine:

Reichsrat Von Buhl 2014 Rose Spatburgunder ($20ish)

This didn't pair well with the food, but it's not the food's just wasn't very good. None of the diners enjoyed this bottle. 77.

The dumplings were terrific, wine notwithstanding.

Vierten Kurs

The wine:

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2014 Riesling Spatlese ($40ish)

So this is kinda what I think of when I think of German food: big hunks of meat, boiled, which takes a lot of the colour out of them, so they all end up looking a bit grey. That was sort of the case here too...but then I tasted them!! Oh my. I can't remember how many kinds of meat there were (I lost count), but they were all terrific and the ham might have been the best I've ever had. If not, definitely in the top 3. So delicious.

This wine featured intense aromas of white flowers and citrus, particularly lime. 42g of residual sugar but it doesn't come across as sweet at all. 8.5% alcohol, so it goes down reallllly easy. 89.

Fünfter Kurs

Cheese plate4 types of cheese, candied pecans, black berries, rye crisps

The wine:

Dr. Loosen Erdener Pralate 2007 Riesling Auslese ($50ish)

Petrol is there but not as prevalent as you might think for a decade old. Aromas of honey, ripe tropical fruit, grapefruit and orange peel. Honeysuckle, pineapple and pear on the palate. Very nice. 90.

Sechster Kurs

The wine:

Selbach-Oster 2003 Riesling Auslese ($80ish for 375ml)

Intense tropical fruit and floral aromas. Stone fruit and pineapple flavors, very ripe and fruit forward. Paired perfectly with dessert, and would probably also pair well with a spicy dish. 91.

Another fun and delicious theme night! Riesling is king in Germany, no doubt about that.

Next up for the wine blog, will be another Okanagan trip report, as we head to Kelowna/Lake County/Penticton next weekend for a few days of random wine tastings and one of our favorite events of the year, the Quails' Gate Barrel Club party at their lake house. Can't wait!

Next theme night comes up in a few weeks, when it's our turn again to do the entertaining. It's going to be a big one (not that they aren't all big), as we are tackling the United States of America. You know, the country going to Hell in a handbasket right now.

Hopefully they don't get us all nuked before then.

Until then...

Auf Wiedersehen!!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Huge catch up entry, finally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's been so long since I did one of these random catch-up entries, but I figure I better get one done before my notes get eaten.

No, that's not a typo. We don't have livestock or anything, but we do have one of these.

That is a Sidra. She's real, and she's spectacular. And she loves to eat paper.

So, I better get to it while I can still read (most of) my notes.

Shafer Vineyards 2011 Merlot ($80.99)

Aromas of chocolate, oak, smoke, cassis, blueberry, vanilla and sage. Juicy palate features blackberry, chocolate, forest floor and cedar. Medium finish. Nice effort in what was a pretty poor year in Napa. 92.

Black Hills 2012 Addendum ($55.00)

So, Black Hills decided to do a test run by putting their 2012 Nota Bene back into the bottles for an extra 6 months to see how it worked. The result was this beauty. Aromas of blackberry, blueberry and a touch of smoke. Juicy blackberry flavors, with a touch of vanilla and black tea. Finishes very long. 93.

Turnbull 2014 Bonne Vivant Winemaker's Blend ($75.00 USD)

Blackberry, blueberry, eucalyptus, red fruit and a touch of spice on the nose. Complex palate of black cherry, dark chocolate, toasty oak, smoke, and juicy blueberry notes come up at the end as it opens. Lovely. 93.

Cedarcreek 2016 Platinum Block 1 Pinot Noir Rosé ($24.99)

Strawberry, cranberry, watermelon, a touch of pink grapefruit and some vegetative notes on the nose. Is that a soupcon of asparagus, perhaps? Strawberry, a touch of watermelon and herbs de Provence on the palate. This is juicy and delicious and a top-notch Rosé. 92.

The Hatch 2016 Lifecycle of a Hobo Muller-Thurgau ($25.99)

This hybrid is enjoying a renaissance due to the crazies at the Hatch. Aromas of red apple, papaya, guava and lemon. Citrus flavors dominate. Intriguing. 88.

The Hatch 2016 Gobsmacked Sweet P ($17.99)

Blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Auxerrois.

Light aromas of tropical fruit, pineapple and white flowers. Flavors of guava, banana, honeysuckle and red apple. Balanced acidity. 88.

Tinhorn Creek 2013 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine ($57.99)

Aromas of lemon, white flowers, honey and apricot. Pear, citrus rind, honey and pineapple on the palate. 89.

Paul Hobbs 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($75.00)

Tropical fruit and buttery citrus abound on the nose. Butterscotch, hazelnut, pineapple and ripe apple on the palate. Finishes long. 93.

Chateau Montelena 2013 Chardonnay ($75.00)

The wine that won the Judgement in Paris in 1973, aromas of butterscotch, citrus, hazelnut, sweet oak and ripe apples. The flavors are similar to the nose, with a long finish, and vibrant acidity. 93.

Quilceda Creek 2013 CVR ($39.00 USD from winery)

This is a blend of declassified lots that don't make it into their flagship wines, and the quality of this wine is a good indication of just how good their flagship wines will be. Aromas of dark chocolate, black plum, licorice and graphite. Rounded texture, ripe tannins, juicy flavors of rich cherry and a long finish. 92.

Black Hills 2015 Roussanne ($24.99)

Light aromas of pear and melon. Creamy mouthfeel, white flowers, toasted coconut, apple and almond flavors. Delicious first effort. 89.

Ego Bodegas 2014 Goru ($21.95)

Blend of Monastrell, Syrah and Petit Verdot

Aromas of violets, blueberry, leather and sweet cedar. Herbaceous notes on the palate, with blackberry flavors and a juicy mid-palate. Short finish. 88.

Turnbull 2012 Oakville Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($85.00)

Beautiful aromas of eucalyptus, coffee, mushroom, tobacco leaf and black fruit. Beautiful, complex flavors of dark chocolate, leather, cigar box and red cherry. Really special. 94.

d'Arenberg 2009 The Laughing Magpie Shiraz/Viognier ($41.99)

92% Shiraz, 8% Viognier

Mushroom, black fruit, forest floor and tobacco on the nose. Black cherry, leather, tobacco and mushroom on the palate. Juicy and lovely finish. 92.

Culmina 2015 Decora ($24.95)

Aromas of papaya, honeysuckle, wet slate. A touch of minerality on the palate is framed by papaya, orchard fruit. Still young and will age gracefully. 89-91.

Church & State 2014 Coyote Bowl Chardonnay ($34.99)

Pretty nose of buttered toast, hazelnut and white flowers. Intense flavors of toasty oak, caramel and hazelnut. Lovely. 91.

Cedarcreek 2014 Amphora Project Meritage ($45.00)

Graphite, forest floor, red berries and wild mushroom on the nose. Black fruit and mushroom on the palate. Finishes short, and lacks some power and finesse. 86.

OK that will do it for now! Some great stuff. Next up: Germany night!