Friday, November 10, 2017

Okanagan Trip Part 3, a full tasting of the new stuff from Tinhorn Creek!

A lovely tasting in the barrel room with the incomparable Shelann, their wine club concierge. She always puts on a first class tasting and today was no exception!

Tinhorn Creek 2016 Oldfield Reserve 2 Bench White ($19.99)

47% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Semillon, 16% Viognier, 14% Chardonnay and 6% Muscat

 Aromas of white flowers, red apple and a tiny dollop of fresh cut grass. Unctious, with flavors of elderflower, citrus, peach and a slight herbaceous quality. Lovely. 

Tinhorn Creek 2013 Oldfield Series Pinot Noir ($31.99)
Aromas of red cherry, dried herbs and forest floor. Sour cherry and red berries dominate the palate. Will improve with a bit more time in the bottle but already tasty.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Oldfield Reserve Merlot ($26.99)
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc

Dark chocolate, vanilla, black currant and blackberry on the nose. Vanilla and chocolate on the palate, framing blackberry, black cherry and cedar notes. Delicious, and ready to drink right now with some beautiful BBQ.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Oldfield Reserve Syrah ($31.99)

Dark purple, inky colour. Aromas of charred meat, violets, blackberry and blueberry. Juicy and round palate, blackberry, vanilla, blueberry and dark chocolate. French, Hungarian and American Oak, 1/3 of which is new, and the oak is still front and centre, but this is already so delicious. Can't imagine it's going to improve a bunch but we will see.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 The Creek ($55.00)

53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot

Aged 24 months in 40% new Hungarian and French oak. Arresting aromas of red berries and black cherry. Complex palate of red raspberry, blueberry, black cherry and black plum. Tannins are firm as can be right now, this is a big one to put away for 3-5 more years. If you just can't wait, ensure you aerate and decant for a couple of hours. So much potential.
Tinhorn Creek 2015 The Creek (Barrel Sample - $55.00)
Much more approachable than the 2014 due to the hot growing season, this beauty could be called hedonistic. Blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, mint and cherry on the nose. Juicy blackberry, raspberry, toasty oak and dark chocolate. Finishes long and beautifully. This one will age well but it's so good now, and not even in bottle yet. What a treat.

Terrific tasting, we are always taken excellent care of on any visit to Tinhorn Creek.

Next up: Another first time visit, just up the road to Rust Wine Co where we discover at least one wine that is quite remarkable.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part II, our second stop in the Similkameen is at Seven Stones

There is nothing more annoying than walking into a retail outlet and getting pounced on, and that's what happened here.

Of course, it wasn't the winery staff, it was their dog! LOL. He was so friendly and adorable. Winery dogs are awesome.

Very nice tasting room, a gorgeous patio with quite a view, and they also feature caves that you can tour if you have the time and inclination. We didn't have time but will plan to check them out on our next visit.

Seven Stones 2016 Rosé ($20.00)

100% Pinot Noir. Reminiscent of Provence with aromas of strawberry, with flavors of citrus, forest floor, mushroom and citrus.

Seven Stones 2012 Chardonnay ($25.00)

Light aromas of butter, nectarine, lemon zest and pineapple. Citrus and tropical fruit on the palate, with enticing minerality. Shows potential for aging. 

Seven Stones 2012 Vivianne's Pinot Noir ($30.00)

Aromas of raspberry, strawberry, black tea and cranberry. Red currant, red raspberry and baking spice on the palate. Delicate enough to pair beautifully with a grilled salmon dish.

Seven Stones 2012 Merlot ($30.00)

Aged for 18 months in French and American oak. Red cherry, black olive and mint on the nose. Just a hint of leather lurking in the background. Blueberry, black plum, vanilla and chocolate on the palate with a touch of spice on the finish. Very tasty.
Seven Stones 2013 Cabernet Franc ($30.00)

Black plum and black cherry aromas with a just-noticeable touch of black pepper. Flavors of raspberry, chocolate, red cherry. Light and fruity. 

Seven Stones 2011 Meritage ($35.00)

51% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot

Aromas of raspberry, coffee and tobacco. Black olive, raspberry, plum and a touch of chocolate on the palate. 

That was all we got to taste but they were selling some library vintages of Chardonnay so we took this one home and opened it up a week later.

Seven Stones 2010 Chardonnay ($35.00)

Attractive aromas of butterscotch, hazelnut and pineapple. Tropical fruit and citrus dominate the palate, with high acidity and just a touch of butter on the finish.

Unfortunately that was all the time we had to visit the Similkameen on this trip, but we will be back next year. For now, we were off to Oliver and Osoyoos to tour a few more wineries and attend an incredible event. Next up: New vintages at Tinhorn Creek!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 1, let's travel through the Similkameen Valley (and, for once, stop and taste the wine!!!)

We've driven through the Similkameen Valley dozens of times. It's about time we actually stopped and tried some of the wine!

First up is a relatively new player in the market, Vanessa Vineyards. They were in the news recently as they've snapped up recently-retired legendary winemaker Howard Soon, late of Sandhill, to take over their wine making duties. I think Howard was retired for about 17 minutes. He and Don Triggs should hold a symposium on how NOT to retire!

Vanessa Vineyards 2013 Meritage ($36.99)

Cabernet Sauvignon 44% / Cabernet Franc 32% / Merlot 24%

Light nose features red cherry, with pretty floral notes, all framed with herbaceous undertones. Red cherry, blackberry, black licorice and mocha on the palate. Tannins are strong, this one needs a bit of time, but it's already good. 

Vanessa Vineyards 2014 Right Bank ($39.99)
Arresting aromas of blackberry, blueberry and charred meats. Delicious and fruity with loads of blueberry, vanilla and sweet baking spices. Finishes very long. Lovely. 

Vanessa Vineyards 2013 Syrah ($34.99)
Reminiscent of the Rhone Valley, aromas of vanilla, smoke, leather and a hint of forest floor. Black cherry, red raspberry and a hint of maraschino cherry on the palate. Tons of promise.
Vanessa Vineyards 2014 Merlot ($34.99)

Merlot 85% / Cabernet Franc 15%

Fermented and barrel aged for 26 months in mainly new and one year old American and French oak. The oak shines through on the nose, joined by dark chocolate, cassis and ripe red cherries. Delicious and juicy palate with notes of stewed plums, blackberry, blueberry, cassis and black raspberry. Their first Merlot, and it's a winner. 

That was their entire portfolio, although some other varietals are on the horizon, including a Viognier. They have a beautiful, big tasting room and as you can see from the above reviews, the wines are universally excellent. A "must-stop" on your visit to, or through, the Similkameen.

Next up: Our second stop in the Similkameen, at Seven Stones!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Catch-up entry featuring some spectacular stuff from Washington State, some beauty Rosés from Provence, and of course, BC too......

BREAKING NEWS!!! Brad and Angelina are NOT getting divorced.

Thank goodness, hope those crazy kids can work it out. If not, what happens to their wine???

Miraval 2016 Rosé ($28.99 in BC Liquor Store)

Delicate spring floral aromas with just a touch of spice. Blood orange, red grapefruit, meyer lemon and a touch of grapefruit on the palate. The 2012 version of this is still (I believe) the only rosé to make Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of the year list. I was concerned that perhaps this wine just got notoriety because of it's famous parents, but it really is tasty. 91.

But we weren't finished with Provence...

Chateau St. Marguerite 2016 Symphony Rosé ($26.99 USD from

Beautiful, arresting aromas of red roses, orange blossom, white flowers and passion fruit. Complex flavors include peach, nectarine, orange rind, lime zest. Texture is light and full at the same time. Absolutely superb. If not my all time favorite rosé, it's pretty darn close. 93.

Chateau d'Esclans - 2015 Rock Angel Rosé ($31.99 USD at Total Wine)

Herbaceous aromas compliment the red currant and strawberry fruit. Light and fruity, notes of orange rind, red fruit, herbs and intense minerality. Full textured and medium bodied. Lovely. 91.

Now onto some "non-Provence" wine.....but we'll stay in France for one more bottle:

Gustave Lorentz 2015 Reserve Gewurztraminer ($32.95 from Legacy Wines)

Aromas of lychee, peach, rose water, apricot, honeysuckle and just a touch of white pepper lurking in the background. Rich and full mouthfeel, with flavors of elderflower, pineapple and lychee. Nice. 89.

To Canada we go!!!

Quails' Gate 2012 Chardonnay ($22.99 from winery)

50% barrel fermented, 50% tank fermented

Aromas of hazelnut, white flowers, red apple and butterscotch. Apple and peach on the palate, with a blast of caramel coming through on the finish. Drinking beautifully now. 90.

Volcanic Hills 2012 Merlot ($25.00 from winery)

Blackberry, forest floor, cassis, red plum and black tea on the nose. Black cherry, blueberry and earthiness on the palate. Medium finish. Tasty. 89.

Moon Curser 2012 Petit Verdot ($32.00 from winery or VQA stores)

Aromas of violets, mint, coffee, blueberry and smoke. Perhaps even just a touch of tar. Palate is a bit hot; mushroom and forest floor dominate the rustic palate. 88.

Le Vieux Pin 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99 from winery, private wine shops)

Light aromas of hay, gooseberry, and Meyer lemon. Red apple, orchard fruit, guava and tart grapefruit on the palate. Finishes with a strong backbone of minerality. Not an easy grape to grow successfully in the Okanagan, and this one is well done. 89.

Couple random ones to finish up!

Faustino 2004 Gran Reserva ($34.95 from private liquor stores)

This Rioja beauty features all the scents you would expect from a 13 year old wine, forest floor, mushroom, tobacco, but also a lot of licorice, blackberry, plum and cherry. Medium bodied and impressive. This wine is mass produced (around a half million bottles are prepared) and it is amazing that the quality is this high. It's terrific. 92.

And, we'll finish up with the gem of this report:

Col Solare 2007 Col Solare ($75.00 USD from

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc

Oh my. Cherry, raspberry, cassis, nutmeg, mint, smoke and cigar box assault your olfactory senses. Incredibly expressive. Black plum, raspberry and cherry flavors frame the palate, which picks up leather, cedar and cigar box. Finishes long. Really hitting it's peak now, this is just delicious. 94.

Well, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I am now 100% caught up on all my random notes. That doesn't mean I'm finished, though, as another Okanagan trip report begins next. It's a short one, but it features lots of good stuff and an incredible event that you'll have to see to believe.

Until next time!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Let's just talk about California wine, including some world-class Zinfandel, the best I've ever had

It is impossible to write a wine blog, or just enjoy wine, without being aware of the devastation that has occurred in the Napa/Sonoma wine region the past couple of weeks. With several wineries completely destroyed, and more than two dozen wineries damaged or destroyed, (here is an updated list), the destruction has been unparalleled.

We are members of four California wine clubs. Three in Napa (Robert Mondavi, Turnbull Cellars, Joseph Phelps) and one in Sonoma (Hartford Family Winery). We know that all four of them have escaped any significant damage to their wineries and most of their vineyards. Turnbull has suggested there may be some damage to their Amoenus Vineyards near Calistoga. As the fires still burn, we know that we have not yet heard the final tally of the damage, but it seems as if most wineries and vineyards miraculously escaped total loss. For a region that relies on wine as their most significant source of revenue, the news is generally positive. Pretty extraordinary when you think about it.

One of the wineries that did NOT survive, Signorello Estates Winery, has already vowed to rebuild. Good for them.

As of this writing, I'm told that 95% of businesses in the affected counties are open. I've received Emails from all my wineries sending the same message: please help us.

From Robert Mondavi:

We are happy to announce that we are open and want to welcome you back! While our beautiful valley may not look the same as the last time you visited, you will be greeted with an even stronger sense of hospitality as we all come together to support our friends and neighbors. During the month of October, all locals and first responders are invited to join us at Robert Mondavi Winery for a free wine tasting.

Between now and the end of October, we are proud to donate 10% of our tasting room and online wines sales to the Napa Valley Community Fund.

Many of you have asked how you can help. Here are some options:

Give back! Here is the Charity we recommend: Napa Valley Community Fund

Come see us! Plan a visit to wine country and help support our community by staying at our beautiful hotels, visiting our neighbors, and enjoying delicious meals at our world-class restaurants.

Buy Napa and Sonoma Wines! And keep buying them from all your favorite Napa and Sonoma wineries, online, in stores and in restaurants. Share them with friends & family...this is one of the best ways you'll help us rebuild our beautiful wine country! 

 So I am dedicating this blog post to bringing as much attention to California wine as I can. I had promised a huge catch up entry of some wine that we've enjoyed while I've been writing my Okanagan trip reports; this is that, focusing just on California wine. I'll have another entry with everything else later this weekend. And it would be remiss of me to not give a nod to the incredible first responders who's tireless work undoubtedly saved many lives, many wineries, and many acres of grapes.

Let's get to it!

First let's start with an oldie but a goodie; our dear friends held a Graduation party for their two daughters a couple of months ago, and one of them (a budding oenophile) just happened to be born in 1994. The day after we knew the confirmed date of the party - THE DAY AFTER - I get an Email from advertising this:

Silver Oak 1994 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($84.99 USD)

Intense, brooding, provocative nose of leather, tobacco, clove, black cherry and spice. Given the age, there is a stunning amount of fruit left, sweet raspberry, toasty oak and black cherry mingling with the earthy and tobacco flavors you would expect from a 23-year old wine. Delicious and probably has another 5-7 years left in it. 93.

I wish *I* was able to taste a wine that was made the year I was born. But I am just too f*****g old :)

Hartford Family Winery 2010 Fog Dance Chardonnay ($65 USD direct from winery)

Arresting nose featuring caramel, baked apple, citrus and nutmeg. Bold with bright, vibrant acidity. Flavors of butterscotch, baking spice and a very long, persistent finish. When you open up a Hartford Chardonnay you know you are going to get a very good wine, a great wine, or a life-changing wine. There are no other options. 93.

Robert Mondavi 2013 Carneros Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc ($65 USD direct from winery)

63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Cabernet Franc

Complex and intense aromas of mint, pencil lead, black licorice, black raspberry, plum and tobacco leaf. Blackberry starts it off, leading to a juicy mid-palate featuring black licorice and cassis. Rich and luscious mouthfeel, the only thing keeping this from true greatness is a medium finish. Even so, it's terrific. 92.

Miner Family 2010 La Diligence Syrah ($32.99 USD from

We tasted the '09 vintage of this on our trip to Napa a few years back, and loved it so much that when we found it here in a Liberty Wines store, we went and bought them all. I was beyond excited when I happened across this new vintage on

Unfortunately, it's nothing like the '09. Sourced 100% from the well-known Stagecoach Vineyard. Aromas of black and green olives, leather and blackberry give way to flavors of black cherry and forest floor. The finish is weak and unimpressive. It's not a bad wine, but given our love of the '09, a disappointment. 88.

Robert Mondavi 2014 Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Fumé Blanc ($52.00 USD direct from winery)

Beautiful asian pear, peach, pineapple, thyme and slight perfume aromas. Tropical fruit, white plum and thyme flavors. Impressive minerality and a full, rich mouthfeel. Delicious. 92.

Hartford Family Winery 2012 Outer Limits Syrah ($55 USD direct from winery)

We've been big fans of this winery for years and I had no idea they even made a Syrah. Sourced from a vineyard just four miles from the Pacific Ocean, this beauty features brambly black fruit, forest floor, blueberry, charred meat, lilacs and vanilla on the nose. Dark chocolate, black plum, blackberry, cassis, blueberry, leather and a touch of black pepper on the palate. Just delicious. 93.

Hartford Family Winery 2014 Warrior Princess Pinot Noir ($70 USD direct from winery)

California winery, but the fruit is sourced from the famous Zena Crown Vineyard in the Eola-Amity sub-appellation in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Aged for 16 months in 100% French Oak, 32% new. Aromas of black cherry, cedar and dried rose petals. Red cherry, blackberry, blueberry, nutmeg and juniper berries on the palate. Terrific. 92.

And, last but certainly not least........

Hartford Family Winery 2014 Highwire Vineyard Zinfandel ($60 USD direct from winery)

From a 100+-year-old-vineyard in the Russian River Valley, and aged in 100% French Oak (45% new) for 10 months. Deep and impressive aromas of licorice, blackberry, white pepper and black cherry. Black fruit dances on your palate, joined by some rich, luscious dark chocolate. The finish goes on longer than Pinocchio's nose in that Geico commercial. I honestly can't imagine that Zinfandel gets much better than this. I hope I get to find one even better one day. It won't be easy. 96.

That's it for today, please dear readers, if you are going to open up a bottle of wine tonight, or hit your local liquor store to pick up a bottle or bottles, make it something from California. They need us.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Okanagan trip reports becomes legal (in Alberta anyway), report 18 at Beaumont Family Estate Winery!

Our first visit to this little boutique winery that has something I haven't seen at any other wineries: Musical instruments. Yes, just sitting there, for you to play if you have the desire and ability.

Oh, and they also sell some of the best jam I've ever had.

They had several different flavors, and I could've bought them all, but we stuck to these two. Delicious. Put those bad boys on some crackers and let your taste buds thank you.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2015 Pinot Gris ($19.90)

Intense aromas of lemongrass, with passion fruit and lemon-lime lurking in the background. Definitely a food wine, with flavors of citrus dominating the tart palate. 88.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2014 Gewurztraminer ($17.90)

Aromas of sweet white flowers, lychee and tropical fruit. The aromas follow through to the palate, followed by a spicy finish. 89.

This was so tasty we bought two and enjoyed one the same night in our hotel room with some Thai food. Unfortunately the second one, which we opened up at Thanksgiving last weekend, was bad and went down the sink.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2015 Trio ($19.90)

50% Pinot Blanc, 25% Pinot Gris, 25% Gewurztraminer

Like fruit salad in a bottle. Guava, mango and stone fruit aromas give way to tropical fruit, pineapple, mango and peach flavors. Great patio sipper. 88.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé ($18.90)

Strawberry dominates the nose, with a touch of cranberry and pomegranate poking up at the end. The palate is round and juicy, with watermelon candy, cherry, cranberry and wild strawberry. A hint of spice on the finish. If you are a bigger fan of watermelon and cranberry than I am, you are likely to love this. 87.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2014 Gamay Noir ($22.90)

Intense blackberry and black pepper on the nose. Red berries, oak and black pepper on the palate. Gamay is never my very favorite varietal but this is perfectly tasty. 88.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2014 Pinot Noir ($26.00)

Juicy red cherry and black cherry mingle on the nose. Red cherry, cassis, cedar and violet flavors. Light-bodied. 88.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2013 Pinot Noir Icewine ($30/200 ml or $50/375 ml)

You don't see Pinot Noir icewine everyday! Blackberry, red cherry, cassis and a hint of spice on the nose. Sweet red cherry and vanilla on the palate. Tasty. 92.

Not a bad wine in the bunch and lots of potential for growth here. We will definitely visit again!

That is IT for this Okanagan trip report, but we've come and gone on ANOTHER Okanagan trip, albeit a short one, and I will start reporting on that soon. First, however, a lot of other great wine has been enjoyed in the meantime, and I'll do a big catch-up entry or two on some random stuff.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Keep those Wagons Rolling, and keep the Wine a-Pourin'.....Rollingdale!!!!

The 17th entry in this Okanagan trip is the penultimate one, as we re-visit a winery we thought was just OK last time. Things have changed very much.

First, they have added some extra tasting bars in the tasting room (which doubles as their barrel room), alleviating the previous problem of feeling cramped while tasting. Secondly, the wines have improved quite a bit, and they had a lot more to taste.

Prices are pre-tax.

Rollingdale 2016 Estate Organic Pinot Blanc ($24.26)

Aromas of pear and tropical fruit, leading to pleasing flavors of citrus and pear. One of my favorite of this varietal. Very nice. 90.

Rollingdale 2016 Estate Organic Pinot Gris ($21.65)

Orchard fruit mingles with strong aromas of anise and pear. Pear flavors are dominating, in your face. Not for the faint of heart, but very tasty especially if you enjoy pear. 89.

Rollingdale 2015 Pinot Gris ($15.56)

10% Semillon

With 22g of residual sugar, this is sweeter than the above but certainly not "sweet". Pear and honeysuckle aromas. Pear, peach cobbler and toffee on the palate, which actually finishes a touch tart. 86. 

Rollingdale 2014 Paint the Town ($17.30)

A bizarre blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Marechal Foch, with strong violet notes on the nose, followed closely by raspberry and cherry. Tannins are soft and supple and this is ready to go, take these blackberry flavors, give it a chill, pair with some light pasta and go. 87.

Rollingdale 2014 8 Barrels Merlot ($39.91)

Aged 26 months in new French Oak barriques, this is so-named because it was their favorite 8 barrels. Violets, cigar box, forest floor and smoke on the nose. Earthy, chewy, funky with forest floor and a dark chocolate finish. Very tasty. 90.

Rollingdale 2015 Organic Estate Merlot ($44.99)

Complex nose that brings you vanilla, violets, blueberry, blackberry and cherry. Berries are dominate on the palate, but look hard enough and you'll get some dark chocolate and vanilla on the finish. Tannins are firm and this one needs some more time to grow, but it's going to be delicious. 91-93.

Rollingdale 2015 Organic Estate Marechal Foch ($24.26)

Really intense floral notes leap from the glass, closely followed by intense notes of blueberry. It runs a bit hot at 14.5% alcohol but tannins are almost non-existent, so if this is your thing, pair it with a big, rich pasta or even something spicy. 86.

Rollingdale 2016 Fort ($52.09)

Big, bold Port-style wine made from Marechal Foch. The nose starts off almost strictly alcohol, but that dissipates quickly. The rich alcohol continues on the palate but let it sit for a second and some tasty flavors of black cherry and toffee show up. Perfect for a nice by the fire. 89.

Rollingdale 2013 Merlot Icewine ($43.39)

The nose is almost as strong as the above, featuring decadent aromas of raisin, strawberry, toffee and caramel. Toffee, plum and caramel flavors. Probably my all-time favorite Merlot icewine. Delicious. 94.

Rollingdale 2013 Organic Pinot Gris Icewine ($43.39)

Red apple, pineapple, honeysuckle and lemon-lime on the nose. Creamy flavors of honey, pineapple and butterscotch. Very nice. 93.

Rollingdale 2013 Organic Chardonnay Icewine ($60.78)

Aromas of pineapple and honey, flavors of grapefruit, honey and lemon meringue pie. Creamy and beautiful. 93.

Excellent experience here, and we will definitely return!

Next up: The final report of this Okanagan trip, our first visit to another fairly new winery, Beaumont Family Winery!