Friday, August 30, 2013

My house smells like roses.....

Tonight's tasting, a small Kelowna winery called House of Rose. No accent on the Rose.....rose like the flower, not rose like the wine.

Tonight I met with Aura Rose, the winery owner and winemaker, for a very special, private tasting (if by "private" I mean "open to anyone who walked in the door"). All their wines are very reasonably priced. Here we go:

2011 Riesling

Hints of orange on the nose and palate, with a touch of spice on the finish. Refreshing, but like most BC Riesling's, too dry for me to go crazy over. Having said that, this is one of my favorite BC Rieslings. $17.89.

Rating: 6.5/10

2012 Have A Cool Splash

A blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Ortega; none my favorite grapes, but this wine is bigger than the sum of it's parts. Light, fruity, and delicious. An excellent summer patio sipper at $18.90.

Rating: 7/10

2010 Marechal Foch $18.86

Deep and rich, fruity and robust, and quite good. Would pair beautifully with big red meats, smoked meats, and cold cuts. Foch is not generally my thing, but this one could change my mind.

Rating: 6.5/10

2012 Have a Hot Flash

Medium bodied mix of Foch and Shiraz (is it just me that thinks that is a strange combo??) is a top seller and won a Gold Medal at the 2012 Pacific Northwest Wine Competition. It's slightly sweet without being actually SWEET, if you get my meaning....and it's darn good. I picked up a bottle of this which is a great deal at just under $20. I'll be quite interested to see how my wife, who doesn't like Foch OR Shiraz, reacts to this one.

Rating: 7/10

2006 Vintage Okanagan Port

Silver Medal Winner at the aforementioned competition, it's much smoother and less intense than most port style wines. Port wines are not the kind of dessert wines I generally like, but this one is much better than most. And at $29.93, it's a good value for a dessert wine.

Rating: 6/10

It's not often I get to try five wines and like them all; even more unusual considering that not a single one of these wines features my favorite grapes. This is a winery to watch, and I'll be visiting them on my next trip to Kelowna for sure.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Having dessert? No, THIS is dessert.

Sorry for the lousy picture, but anyway, this is dessert at it's finest.

2007 Quails' Gate Riesling Icewine

Nobody does dessert wine like Quails' Gate, and this is the king, IMO. Lots of people are really fond of their Optima, which is good, but to me, this is far and away the best. It's an absolutely perfect way to finish off ANY meal......and if the Icewine wasn't enough for you, how about the fresh BC berries, soaked in the Icewine, and then topped with Icewine cream??? Yeah, it's just as good as it sounds. Maybe better.

Rating (the wine): 9/10

Rating (the dessert): 1.58million/10

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Pentage by any other name.....

....would still be Pentage....

A few days ago I posted that I had eaten the best meatloaf I had ever tasted, using a recipe I got from my favorite wine cookbook. We used a Wolf Blass Shiraz in the recipe which was excellent, but the recipe actually specifically called for a wine called Pentage, which is the signature red blend from the winery called, not coincidentally, Pentage.

The day after eating this fine meatloaf, I was in my local VQA wine store when I noticed that particular wine. They had 2006 and 2007 in stock, so as someone that loves it when wine is already aged for me, I picked up a 2006 to try it out.

Pentage Winery 2006 Pentage

A blend of Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Syrah and Gamay.

Halfway between red and brown in colour, this complex red brings leather, tobacco, cedar, blackberries and a touch of spice to the nose. The berries stand out on the palate, bringing a very elegant and smooth finish. Absolutely ready to go right now; no need to further age, IMO. Fantastic. $30.90.

Rating : 7.5/10

Now that I know how good this wine is, I'll pick up another bottle the next time I want to make that meatloaf recipe and see if it even enhances it. We paired this bottle with filet mignon and it went very nicely.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Everyone needs a little THERAPY.....

....and after today's tasting at Sardis Park VQA, my palate needs some too. Or some cleansing, at the very least.

Therapy Vineyards 2011 Alter Ego

Pinot Gris 45%
Sauvignon Blanc 40%
Chardonnay 5%
Viognier 10%

This elegant white blend starts with pleasant hints of coconut on the nose (and I love coconut), giving way to a palate of mild oak and fresh fruit. It has a pleasant enough finish, but at $23.98, I have a hard time recommending this one. There are better options out there.

Rating: 4.5/10

Therapy Vineyards 2011 Freudian Sip

One of the more cleverly named wines, a secret white blend starts with intriguing notes of tropical fruits which I couldn't totally identify (papaya??). The tropical fruits carry over to the palate, mingling with citrus and minerals. At $17.49, a better value than the above.

Rating: 5/10

Therapy Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir

Faithful blog readers will know that Pinot Noir is my favorite grape, and when it's done well, there is nothing like it. Unfortunately when it's not done well, there is also nothing like it.

A rich deep red colour, with notes of black currants on the nose, this one starts well but finishes weak and flabby, and totally unimpressive. Without a doubt one of my least favorite BC Pinots ever.

Rating: 2/10

Therapy Vineyards 2008 Super Ego

A blend of the traditional 5 Bordeaux grapes, this one opens with a fruity, smoky nose. The palate is very complex, but it finishes with a bitterness that leaves a lingering aftertaste. This wine is meant to age, so perhaps that is the problem, but it's already 5 years old so I am not that hopeful. At $31.97, there are so many better options out there.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wild Turkey? Not quite. Wild Goose Winery

Today's tasting at Sardis Park VQA wine store features Wild Goose, a smaller Okanagan Falls winery that keeps the price down on all their wines; nothing on their website is over $25, and nothing that I tasted today is over $20.

As I've mentioned before, I (unfortunately) don't tend to like cheaper wines. I don't think it's because I'm a "snob", but I like what I like....heck if I could find great wines that I loved for $8 a bottle, wouldn't that be awesome? Who wouldn't love to get great wine at that price? Sadly, my experience is that isn't usually the case, so I was curious as to what today's tasting would bring.

2011 Blanc de Noir

Blanc do Noir would translate to "White of Black", so naturally this wine is a Rose. ???. Anyway, it punches you in the face with aromas of strawberry, and a hint of sweetness is a pleasant way to finish. This is a blend of Merlot (70%) and Pinot Noir (30%) and is one of my favorite BC Roses. At $18, it's a reasonable value.

Rating: 6.5/10

2011 Chardonnay

Lightly oaked, notes of butter and butterscotch greet your nose. A creamy finish brings back the butterscotch, with hints of pear and melon as well. At $19, an excellent entry level Chardonnay.

Rating: 6.5/10

2012 God's Mountain Riesling

Stong notes of grapefruit and apple on the nose, finishes with notes of honey and clove, and a little flinty. As with most BC Rieslings, too dry to really get me excited.

Rating: 5.5/10

2012 Autumn Gold

A blend of Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Blanc, this is a top seller and for good reason. Notes of peaches and spiced apple are offset with a lingering residual sweetness that is very pleasing. This was my favorite of today's tasting and I took a bottle home to enjoy.

Rating: 7/10

2010 Pinot Noir

Light and fruity, with berry and vanilla notes. Likely would pair excellently with BC salmon, and a reasonable price point of $18.

Rating: 6/10

2010 Merlot

Beautiful berry and plum nose, with earthy tones mingling with the blueberry notes. Rich and firm, good to drink now but would definitely be enhanced with 4-5 years of careful cellaring. For $18, definitely worth a look if you have the patience to sit it down for a few years; would reward your patience handsomely.

Rating: 6.5/10

All in all, a very good lineup of inexpensive wines!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chat with Tinhorn Creek winemaker/CEO/President Sandra Oldfield

Today's blog is an exciting one, featuring an exclusive interview I conducted with Sandra Oldfield, the CEO/President and winemaker at one of BC's top wineries, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards.

Tinhorn Creek has been a staple of the Oliver wine industry since 1993, and Sandra has been there almost that long, moving to Oliver from California in 1995.  In addition to her jobs at the winery, Sandra organized #BCWineChat on Twitter, which brings together BC wine industry leaders, consumers and enthusiasts every Wednesday at 8PM Pacific Time. Everyone is welcome to join; well, of course they are, it's Twitter. Just search for #BCWineChat and you will see all the posts, and add #BCWineChat to your posts to join in on the discussion.

Now let's get to my talk with Sandra:

Dean: You are the president, CEO, and winemaker, not to mention you are very active in promoting BC wine on social media. That's a lot of hats for one person to wear. Are you ever concerned that you spread yourself too thin?

Sandra: No.  I have great people working around me and that allows you to do many things.  Also, I’ve always been very good at focusing on many varied tasks in a given day.

Dean: Tinhorn Creek has been around over 20 years and you are coming up on your 20th Anniversary there as well. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the BC wine market in those years?

Sandra: In grape growing—the right varieties are being planted in the right locations more and more.

In winemaking- we have many more winemakers from all over the world who have a lot more experience than those that were here when I first arrived (including myself!)

Access to technology—suppliers of all materials know we exist now, in the 1990’s they would not venture up to BC

Sales- more people understand that sales are always hard and to stay successful wineries need to stay innovative

People- we still struggle for finding qualified people but there are definitely more people bringing knowledge from elsewhere to our winery operations than there was when we first opened our doors in 1994

Dean: While BC wines have been gaining respect around the world, winning medals at many International competitions, it's nearly impossible to find BC wine (Canadian wine at all, for that matter) in the USA. I've had dinner in restaurants in Las Vegas where the wine list was about the size of War and Peace, but not a single bottle of Canadian wine, apart from maybe one Ontario Ice wine. What is it that is keeping our wonderful wines out of the USA?

Sandra: We make a small volume but BC drinks a lot of it.  Unlike most wine producing regions that grow much much more than their home market can consume we are the opposite in Canada.  Only 32% of wine that Canadians drink is Canadian.  Contrast that to 66% in the US and 100% in Chile.  I’d say we really need to work on more Canadians getting to know what we do.  For some of the larger wineries, it would be great if more could be shipped to the US and that will happen in time but for now, Canadian wineries go where the best market and $ are at and that is generally at home.

Dean: Last night I participated in my first #BCWineChat on Twitter, and it was very entertaining and informative. Tell me a little bit about the origins of this gathering, and what you are hoping to achieve with it.

I started it in December 2011 because it seemed that there was lots of talk on twitter about our industry but no forum to corral it.  I have driven #BCWineChat since then, making sure that we choose one topic to discuss each week from various areas including trade, vineyards, wineries, production, sales, retail, tourism and restaurants.  I try to mix it up.  I’d love to see more consumers on the chat and each week we tend to get a few more.


Dean: One of the things that came out of last night's #BCWineChat was the realization that there have been a LOT of new wineries open up in BC recently. It seems unlikely that the wine drinking market can bear that many new players, especially if we don't dramatically increase our export business. Do you get concerned that the market will reach saturation, if it hasn't already?

Sandra: I don’t  get concerned with respect to the volumes being made because still 90% of these licenses in BC are small businesses.  I do get concerned that each will see increased competition for the same buyers so some may not make it and, yes, some may have to find other markets.  That will happen organically within each winery over time.  It doesn’t worry me though.  It just means that we will mature to the next step.

Dean: In your opinion, what is the very best wine you make? Let's break it down to two questions: what is the best of your new releases, and what is the best wine Tinhorn has EVER produced?

Sandra: You know that wine is extremely personal so Best is meaningless to me.  The wine that I have a fondness for due to its history here was our 1998 Cabernet Franc.  It was the first time I think I realized we could indeed make an outstanding, intense and character-rich wine with that grape so it holds a place near to my heart.  The best of our new releases this year (so far, with only whites out so far) is our 2012 Pinot Gris.  Rich, round and fruity.  I think it’s a style that has been evolving for a while and has really hit its mark with this recent vintage.

Dean: Being in the wine industry I am sure you are more than familiar with wines from other parts of the world. Do you have a favorite non-BC wine?

Sandra: Anything from Alsace. 

Dean: What is going to be the "next big thing" in BC wine? Is there a new grape that is going to take hold here? I know there are a few BC wineries that produce some wines from grapes that are less-traditional in this market (Tempranillo, Pinot Auxerrois, Sangiovese, Kerner, to name a few). Do you see one of those joining the "big boys" in BC wine production? Or something else?

Sandra: The next big thing will be sub appellations and the expansion of single vineyard wines.  Exciting times!

(UPDATE): I had Sandra clarify what she was referring to in regards to sub appellations:

Right now there are only 5 sub appellations or sub regions defined by law in BC (ie: Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley etc)  There is  a huge difference between different growing regions within those appellations (regions) so defining those and enshrining them in law will be a big step forward in us being able to tell a story to the consumers and have that story reflected on our bottles with the name of where the grapes were grown

Dean: Lastly, what is the favorite part of your job? Is there one thing that stands out above all else?

Sandra: The people.  Always the people.  At Tinhorn Creek our employees are our greatest resource and elsewhere, away from Tinhorn Creek, I think the people in our industry make the work we do completely worthwhile.

A huge "thank you" to Sandra for taking time out from her obviously busy schedule to talk with me. I hope you have all enjoyed this conversation with one of our top winemakers.

Check out their website where you can order their wines, get updates on special events happening at the winery, and just generally learn more about the winery:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Best Meatloaf ever, with a red wine glaze

Seriously, this cooking with wine book is awesome.

On page 117 of this book, you'll find this recipe:

Pentage's Gourmet Meatloaf with a Caramelized Red Wine Glaze.

Uh, yum. Yum yum yum.

Best meatloaf I've ever had, and it's not even close.

I didn't happen to have a bottle of the suggested wine ("Pentage" from the winery of the same name), so I went to the cellar for a meat-friendly red and came up with this little beauty:

2012 Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz Cabernet

Man the Aussies do know their Shiraz.

The website says that 2012 will go down as "one of the great vintages" and if this one is any indication, they are right. You'll get smacked right in the nose by berries, with just the tiniest hint of oak.

On the palate the fruit shines through, with a touch of spice you would expect from a great Shiraz. The smoothness of the Cabernet Sauvignon comes out in the finish, creating a truly transcendent wine.

This is a great bottle of wine, and considering that this is their "cheapie"...the Red Label is their entry level.....I'm going to have to seek out the "good" stuff.

As it's young, I decanted it for a little over an hour.

Retails for around $17.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, August 18, 2013

All Roads lead to 13.....wait that doesn't make sense.....

Yesterday's tasting at SardisPark VQA was an Okanagan Valley winery that has just recently returned to VQA wine stores: Road 13. Not a winery I was very familiar with so I was excited to try out their wares.

2011 Home Vineyards Riesling

Like all BC Rieslings, too dry for my tastes; but pleasant notes of honey balance the acidity of the lemon. Rich and smooth. At $18.88, an excellent bargain; and if you like dryer BC Rieslings, this is a fabulous choice.

Rating: 6/10

2012 Mitchell's Vineyards Pinot Gris

Rich and earthy on the nose with hints of honeysuckle. Notes of pear and honey on the palate. Nice long finish with some minerality. Grapes for this wine grown in Summerland. Retails for $21.

Rating: 5.5/10

2011 Seventy-Four K

Interesting blend of Merlot, Syrah with Viognier, the Cabernets and Mourvedre (although over 90% of the first two), it features strong notes of berries and chocolate on the nose, which gives way to a rich berry flavour. An extra year or two in the bottle would undoubtedly enhance what is already a very drinkable wine. My wife loved this even more than I did, I think, and we left the store with a bottle. At $25, it could be our "everyday" red.

Rating: 7/10

2011 Syrah Malbec

It has those strong pepper notes that are so inviting on the nose, and is so well
balanced it even impressed two people who aren't particularly fond of Malbec (or Syrah, generally, for that matter). Rich and smooth with beautiful hints of blueberries, vanilla, chocolate and pepper. Good now, and would likely benefit from laying down for a few years. $32.

Rating: 6.5/10

2011 Syrah Mourvedre

The Mourvedre, not grown much in BC, adds a rich, dark, almost black colour. Very fruit forward, featuring notes of cherry and blackberry. Very long, very smooth finish. Strong, in your face tannins suggest this would be improved with some cellar time as well. If you can't wait, decant for an hour or so, and it will be very good now. $35.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chardonnay the way it was meant to be, and Chardonnay butter!

I realize it's probably bad form to do two blog posts about the same winery inside of a week, but tonight I went back to my favorite cooking with wine book:

...and selected two recipes for tonight's dinner.

For the main course:

Walnut and Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts with Chardonnay Butter (page 98 if you have the book)

and for a side dish:

Fried Asparagus in a Honey and Walnut Sauce (page 129)

Holy crap.

Both recipes were absolutely delicious; and as good as the chicken was on it's own, covered in the Chardonnay butter, it was even enhanced further by dipping it into the honey/walnut sauce that was draped all over the asparagus.

Seriously good dinner.

And since the recipe specifically called for "Chardonnay butter", I went to my cellar to pull out the only Chardonnay I had on hand:

Quails' Gate 2011 Chardonnay

This is an age-worthy wine; in fact, I had it marked as a "2015" open, but since I needed a Chardonnay, it got popped tonight. I guess I'll just have to go buy another one to replace it for aging.

It brings a slight floral and hazelnut impression on the nose, followed closely by that beautiful butter/butterscotch that comes from the elegance of French oak. "Silky" is a good way to describe this wine. If you like bold and buttery Chardonnay as I do, at a reasonable price point ($25), this is the Chardonnay for you.

Rating: 7/10

There is only one negative thing I can say about the above wine; and that is that it's not nearly as good as it's big brother, which I review below:

Quails' Gate 2010 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay ($45)

This is the King, IMO. Before I had tasted this wine, I was pretty anti-Chardonnay. This one turned it all around.

You like big whites? This is it. Bold? Yup. Buttery? It's like drinking a glass of butterscotch candy, with a chaser of melted butter. When you open up a bottle of this one, you are playing with the Big Boys. This is, simply put, the best Chardonnay I have ever tasted, and quite likely the best white wine, period. I have had many of the vintages, as far back as the '06, and each has been superb. By all means, if you can find this wine, get it and put it away for 4-5 years, as this one ages better than Valerie Bertinelli.

I mean, seriously, that woman is 53 years old. Her parents must have won a bet with God.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, August 16, 2013

Spierheading a new direction in wine?

Apologies to the winery if the name isn't pronounced like "spearhead"....if it isn't, the title of this blog entry really doesn't make much sense.

Anyway, today's tasting at Sardis Park VQA brings us a new player in the BC market; Spierhead Winery, located in South Kelowna. They were named "Best New Winery" at 2012 BC Wine Awards, so that's certainly a promising start.

I know they suffered some hail damage during that freak hail storm that caught Kelowna last week, the extent of which isn't known yet; hopefully it's not significant. Due to that fact, coupled with them being a new guy on the scene, I was really hoping I'd like their wines. It's tough for new wineries; we've all been the new kid in school who thinks they are doing great on their first day, only to find out at lunch that we've been walking around with toilet paper attached to our shoe all day, and the kids have been laughing AT us, not with us.

So here we go:

2012 Riesling

As I've mentioned before, I have yet to find a BC Riesling that really gets me excited; they just can't compare to the big German Rieslings that I prefer. Having said that, this one isn't bad at all. It's dry - dryer than I like - but the crispness and notes of green apple are appealing. This would probably improve with another year or so in the bottle to smooth it out a little, but if you are a fan of BC Rieslings, you will likely enjoy this. At $21.87, it's a good value.

Rating: 5.5/10

2011 Chardonnay

Aged ten months, 20% in French oak, the balance in stainless steel, this wine has buttery notes but they are very subtle. Finishes with hints of lime and cloves. I tend to like bigger, bolder Chardonnays but there is some artistry here, and at the entry level price point of $21.87, it's an excellent value if you enjoy your Chardonnay on the lightly oaked side.

Rating: 6/10

2011 Pursuit

48% Merlot
42% Cabernet Sauvignon
10% Cabernet Franc

Aged 18 months in French oak, this Bordeaux-style blend features soft tannins and is very fruit forward. It's drinkable now but would enhance with a couple years in the bottle to balance out the tannins. At $23.90, it's another excellent value.

Rating: 6.5/10

2010 Vanguard

The winery's signature Bordeaux style blend, although it's not that different from the Pursuit:

48% Merlot
48% Cabernet Sauvignon
 4%  Cabernet Franc

(the percentages changed quite a bit for their 2011 version)

Blackberries and light oak greet the nose. Medium to ripe tannins, and strong acidity suggest to me that this one needs to lay down for a while longer. If you are drinking it now, I'd highly recommend decanting it for at least an hour to bring out it's full potential. If you are looking for a reasonably priced ($29.88) Bordeaux blend to put away for a couple years, this might be the one for you.

                                                          Rating: 6.5/10 (likely to go up with aging)

If I were looking for one of these reds to drink today, I'd buy the Pursuit; but I'm intrigued by the potential for vast improvement on the Vanguard. I think that might be a sleeper.

All in all, a very solid portfolio for a new winery. These guys could very well be one to watch going forward.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why is the Monk Gray? Is he sad? Did he run out of wine?

Today's blog post highlights some terrific white wines from another one of our favorite Okanagan wineries, Gray Monk.

I've already mentioned a couple of them in one of my first blog posts, you can see my reviews and ratings on those here:

Last night we cracked open a bottle of this:

2012 Gray Monk Kerner

As I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for a sweet white wine, and this one is sweet; slightly less-so than the 2011 version, but still fabulous.

Your nose is greeted by beautiful, fruity notes of peaches and pears. The natural sweetness only enhances a delicate, slightly buttery finish. This is an absolute perfect patio sipping wine, but it pairs with just about anything that white wine traditionally works with. Last night we had it with a Roasted Herb Marinated Chicken and the sweetness of the wine (which also went into the recipe, over the chicken) was a terrific compliment to the herbs on the bird. At $17.99, it's also an excellent value. Serve well chilled.

Rating: 7/10

And last week, we had a bottle of this:

2011 Gray Monk Pinot Auxerrois

Proof that this winery can do justice to white that aren't sweet as well. Pinot Auxerrois is not a grape you see in a single varietal all that often, especially from BC. A pale yellow in colour, hints of citrus greet your nose, giving way to rich fruit flavors and a nicely balanced acidity. Slightly off-dry but far from the sweetness of the other whites I've mentioned above and in the older post. Serve this one chilled as well. An excellent wine to pair with seafood or poultry, but it also works great on it's own. $16.99.

Rating: 6.5/10


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beef Wellington, and a very nice BC Merlot

Finally, finally, FINALLY found a Beef Wellington recipe I liked. Ok actually I took two recipes and combined them into one, but it certainly worked; last night, I finally conquered Beef Wellington. Well, sort of.

(**if anyone wants the recipe, I have put it into a Word document, just ask and I will send to you)

If there are any chefs out there who make Welly regularly, tell me how you get the puff pastry fully cooked and still have the Wellington cooked medium rare? I made individual ones yesterday and my wife's was perfect (medium to medium well) and my steak was cooked nicely (medium rare to medium) but the pastry was every so slightly underdone. Not inedibly so; in fact, it was damn good, but another 2-3 minutes cooking would have been perfect for the pastry, but would have overdone the meat.

Oh, and ironically, my wife was sick with a terrible cold, so she could barely taste the fabulous meal I placed in front of her. She felt fine the 2-3 other times I crafted her a Beef Wellington that most dogs wouldn't eat, of course.

Anyway.....back to the wine portion of this blog entry. I was planning on breaking out a big red to celebrate my beating the Welly Monster once and for all, but since Tracey wasn't feeling well and wouldn't enjoy the wine as much as she might, I decided to hit my local VQA wine store and pick up a good, but cheaper, Merlot. This was my pick:

Cedarcreek 2010 Merlot

It's fruity on the nose, filled with raspberry jam-like flavors on the palate, and it's delicious. At $19.95, it's an absolute steal and by far my favorite of the entry-level Merlots that I have tasted. It's a treat to enjoy now, but would undoubtedly age well for another year or two. If you don't have that kind of patience, decant it for an hour or so to fully open it up. It would pair very well with most steak dishes, and certainly went very well with the Beef Wellington (and a cup of it was in the sauce, which was also scrumptious).

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, August 10, 2013

There's GOLD in them thar HILLS. Or is there?

Today's tasting involved a new player in the BC wine scene, Gold Hill. An Okanagan winery that just opened their doors in 2011, they are considered by many to be an up and comer in the market. After today's tasting, I would suggest they are showing some promise but have a long ways to go yet.

Gold Hill 2012 Viognier I

Floral and pineapple notes make for a pleasant bouquet, but at 15.2% the alcohol masks (overwhelms?) the subtlety of the fruit on the palate. At $21.90, I could never recommend this wine unless you are a Viognier fanatic who likes high alcohol wine.

Rating: 3/10

Gold Hill 2011 Pinot Gris I

Strong pleasant notes of pear greet your senses, giving way to a clean finish of pear, apricot and honeydew. Retails for $18.00 and would pair nicely with creamy pasta or seafood dishes.

Rating: 5/10

Gold Hill 2011 Gewürztraminer I

Intensely aromatic floral notes gave me high hopes on this one, but the off-dry finish dominated by mango was a disappointment. At $18.00, there are many better options on the shelf.

Rating: 3.5/10

Gold Hill 2011 Syrah II

Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla, dominates the nose and palate on this simple and smooth Syrah. If you like vanilla, and lots of it, this may be the wine for you. At $26.90 it's an entry level Syrah, but unless you are a vanilla maniac, you can find other options.

Rating: 4/10

Gold Hill 2011 Cabernet Franc II

I'm still looking for that breakout single-varietal Cabernet Franc that knocks me over, and this was certainly not it. Subtle notes of anise and pepper. Would pair nicely with lighter meats such as duck or pork, but at $26.90, I once again have to suggest there are better options on the shelf.

Rating: 3.5/10

Friday, August 9, 2013

Top BC winery comes to taste.....

In the interest of full disclosure, Quails' Gate is my favorite BC winery, hands I go to today's tasting expecting nothing less than their usual excellence. I wouldn't say I love ALL their wines, as they have a diverse portfolio, but generally if it says "Quails' Gate", it has a pretty good chance with me.

I have tasted all these wines before but not these particular vintages, in most cases. I had actually tasted the 2012 Chenin Blanc when it was first released and at that time it seemed to be suffering from a bit of bottle shock.

Their Chenin Blanc has been interesting to me; my wife and I both LOVED their 2010, and both HATED the 2011. Amazing what a difference one year can make. I had a bottle of their 2006 shipped to me from their library at Xmas and it was sublime, so I'm certainly willing to give the 2012 the benefit of the doubt.

As excellent as most of their offerings are, this winery is all about Pinot Noir. I've tried their Pinot Noir from every year from 2005-present and it's uniformly excellent. Let's see if this year's is any different?

So let's get to my reviews:

2012 Chenin Blanc

Strong hints of lemon and melon on the nose, with notes of citrus on the palate. Dry, crisp and fresh. winery suggests this would be a perfect match for oysters; I don't eat oysters so I'll take their word for that. I will be sure to try this with a much better seafood at some point. This wine will reward those of you willing to put it away for some careful cellaring for 3-5 years. At $18.99, it's a reasonably priced option if you have the desire to buy a case and put half of it away for a while.

Rating: 6.5/10 (probably will go up a half point or a full point after some aging).

2012 Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris

Funny story; Chasselas was the first grape they ever planted, and it was planted by mistake. They were trying to plant a grape for eating, not for wine. Turned into a pretty good mistake, as this has turned into a best seller for the winery.

Notes of pear courtesy of the Pinot Gris enhance the natural flavors of the Chasselas. A perfect patio sipper, slightly off dry and well balanced. No need to put this one away; at $18.99, buy it now and enjoy. Should also pair well with lighter seafood dishes.

Rating: 6.5/10

2012 Rose

Firstly, I don't generally like Rose as I've mentioned in this blog before. This one is SO different from the norm.

Notes of green tomato and rhubarb dominate the nose; and the tomato doesn't end there, as it also comes through on the palate. A crisp and dry finish ensures it should pair well with salads or tomato pasta dishes. I'm going to pick one of these up to try it out on my next pasta night. At $15.99, an excellent value.

Rating: 6.5/10

2011 Pinot Noir

Intense and fruity, this version of their regular Pinot Noir doesn't disappoint. From new vines and aged 8 months in barrels, this wine is perfectly good to drink now but if you can put it away for another 2-3 years you will not be disappointed. Subtle hints of spice mix with the fruits on the palate. At $24.95 this is my "go to" red wine, and if you like Pinot Noir, it should probably be yours, too.

Rating: 8/10 (almost certainly to go to 8.5 after aging)

2011 Stewart's Family Reserve Pinot Noir

OK now let's get to their flagship product. Grapes from old vines, aged 18 months in brand new barrels, this is the cream of the crop from Quails' Gate (although I'd argue that their SFR Chardonnay, which we didn't taste today, is pretty damn good too).

The wineries notes say it is "made to be elegant with grace and finesse, this wine is made for wine lovers who desire a sophisticated style of Pinot Noir". I couldn't have said it better myself.

This is a fabulous bottle of wine, ready right now, but if you have the patience to put it away until 2017, 2018, maybe even 2019, you will be very, very well rewarded.

I currently have five of these in my cellar (but today was my first chance to actually taste it), marked to open sometime over the next 4-6 years. Very much looking forward to that :-)

Not a budget wine, at $45, but you will not be disappointed.

                                 Rating: 8.5/10 (almost certainly to be a 9 after aging).

2010 Old Vines Foch

I'll repeat what I said about the Rose; Foch is not my thing. I've tried past vintages of QG Foch and they were OK; this one was a little better, though, and if I was going to go into a store and look for Foch, this would be the one.

Not what I'd consider a "sipping" wine; it's bold, jammy and earthy, and would go best with food. Would probably pair fabulously with very strong foods; braised lamb, or something involving a blue or other stinky cheese. Ready to drink now, but could be cellared for 4-5 years. $24.99.

Rating: 6.5/10

All in all, a terrific day of tasting from one of BC's original wineries. I cannot recommend their wines enough, and also highly suggest you have lunch or dinner at their Old Vines restaurant next time you are up in their neck of the woods.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Different wine growing regions of the world

As I mentioned very early on in my blog, I am a BC wine guy; but that doesn't preclude the rest of the world. There are some interesting facts, and misconceptions out there about where all the great wine in the world comes from.

I'm not going to rehash my column about why Canadian wine gets little respect in the world; I'd highly recommend everyone go back and read that column; but here is another reason that we are not necessarily thought of as a major wine player: we don't produce that much of it.

Looking at a list of the top 10 wine producers in the world, I would suggest that the first four are obvious to even the most inexperienced wine enthusiast: France, Italy, Spain and the USA, in that order. Who's number five? This one was a bit of a surprise to me, and it's a country that I do not believe I have EVER tasted wine from: Argentina.

Argentina relies highly on wine exports to keep their production this high. Their wine industry has its roots in Spain, but their most planted grape actually has it's origins in France: Malbec. In fact, the second most planted red grape, Bonarda, also comes from France where it is called Douce Noir. Spain's influence isn't found until you get down the list to the fifth most planted red grape, Tempranillo, which also trails Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in terms of the amount planted.

The influx of Italian immigrants to Argentina has brought with it many Italian varietals with notable plantings in Argentina as well, including Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Lambrusco, Nebbiolo, Raboso and Sangiovese.

Argentina's most widely planted white grape is called Pedro Gimenez (a close relative of Spain's Pedro Ximenez). Many other white grapes are planted in earnest as well, including Torrontes Riojano, Muscat of Alexandria and Chardonnay.

While Malbec has never much appealed to me, I'm going to have to search out a good Argentinian Malbec and try it out.

Sixth on our list is another country that relies heavily on their export business, our friends from Down Under, Australia. I promise not to make a "shrimp-on-the-barby" joke in this entry.

Australia is primarily known for their Shiraz (Syrah in other parts of the world), and it dominates in terms of area planted. As of 2008, Shiraz accounted for almost 44,000 hectares, more than the next four red grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Grenache) combined.

On the white side, it's all about Chardonnay, which, at over 31,000 hectares, accounts for about 45% of ALL the white grapes planted in Australia.

I have been to a couple different tastings of Australian wine and while the tastings included many varietals, they were dominated by Shiraz, both in sheer numbers of wines to taste, and the quality of the wines.

I hear their Chardonnay goes really well with BBQ shrimp, though. See what I did there? I lied. Live with it.

Next on the countdown at number 7 is Germany and their aromatic whites, lead by Riesling. We've talked about these in the past, German Rieslings are my favorite.

At number 8 is another country I'm pretty unfamiliar with, South Africa. I've only tried one South African wine, if memory serves, and it was awful. South Africa produces many different varietals but is primarily known for Chenin Blanc, which makes up about 18% of the plantings, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Columbard (a white grape which is an offspring of Gouais Blanc and Chenin Blanc).

At number nine is Chile and their Carménère, (often called the "lost varietal" of Bordeaux), which is their most famous export although not their most planted red grape; that honour goes to Cabernet Sauvignon. Second on the list is a grape called Pais, which is used mainly for domestic consumption. Pais was Chile's most harvested red grape for most of the history of the Chilean wine industry, just being passed by Cabernet Sauvignon at the beginning of the 21st century.

Rounding out our top 10 is a country we've discussed in the past; Portugal. Known mainly for Port wines, Portugal also produces some high quality table wines. For more info on some of those, please reference past blog posts on Portugese Douro.

So now I have a good shopping list: Argentinian Malbec, South African Chenin Blanc, and Chilean
Carménère. Oh the horror of having to shop for new wines :-)

So as you see from this list of the top 10 wine-producing regions (in terms of litres produced, not quality), Canada doesn't make the list. We fall into the "everyone else" category, with the likes of New Zealand, China and Mexico. And about a bazillion other countries who produce wine.

Hope you enjoyed the read, and maybe even learned a little something. I certainly did.

Until next time

Monday, August 5, 2013

BC Day blog features two really good wines

Given that today is BC Day, it would only be logical that I would feature nothing but BC wines in today's blog. But of course nobody has ever accused me of being logical. I'm not Mr. Spock for goodness sake.

A few days ago, I was wandering through a random liquor store, checking out their pretty lousy selection of wine, when I came across this bad boy from Spain:

2003 Bajoz Cranza Tempranillo

Bold and earthy, very fruit forward with a pleasant, rich finish, I'd highly recommend picking one of these up if you can find it. I'm going to head back to that store and see if they have any more of them. For $23, it was a steal, and the best part is it's already 10 years old; no reason to further age it. Pop that baby open and enjoy! If you like a good Tempranillo at a very reasonable price, this is for you.

Rating: 7/10

***UPDATE, just got back from the store, picked up the LAST bottle!

OK I guess I better at least feature ONE B.C. wine in my BC Day blog. I had some good friends over for dinner on Saturday night and they brought me this one, which I had not yet tried:

2010 Nk'Mip Quam Qwmt Chardonnay

Try pronouncing that one. No, you're wrong. Try again. No still wrong. Time to give up! This was very nice, with notes of butter and caramel that I love in a Chardonnay. Very rich, with an extended mineral finish. An excellent choice if you are looking for a nice Chardonnay at a reasonable price point of $25.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tasting for BC Day Long Weekend

Sardis Park VQA, my local wine store, hosted a tasting yesterday of four wines to drink on this long weekend. A couple of bubblies to start things off:

The View 2012 Distraction Frizzante

Very dry and sharp, even a little bitter. Finishes off with notes of watermelon. Done in the Prosecco style; if that's your thing, you may enjoy this. Retails for $19.90

                                                                                 Rating: 4/10

Therapy Vineyards 2012 FizzioTherapy Blanc

Another Prosecco-style bubbly, and my thoughts on it are almost the same as the above. Dry with a hint of bitterness. Retails for $22.99

Rating: 3.5/10

And, we also got to taste the new Blind Trust offerings from Laughing Stock Vineyards. For those of you not familiar with what the Blind Trust is all about, they are two blends that change from year to year, and you don't know what you are getting until you open the bottle, as the percentages are printed under the foil. Or you could just read this blog entry, as I'm going to give them to you.

Laughing Stock 2011 Blind Trust Red

A blend of four of the "big five" grapes that you will see in most Bordeaux blends, with a little Syrah in place of Petit Verdot for good measure.

Merlot 47
Malbec 31
Cab Sauv 12
Cab Franc 6
Syrah 4

Smooth and drinkable with notes of plum and cherry. Very balanced. Surprisingly ready to go for a young wine. No need to age this one, pop it open now. It's good, but at the $30 price point, there are better options.

Rating: 6.5/10

Laughing Stock 2011 Blind Trust White

Pinot Gris 43
Pinot Blanc 29
Viognier 28

Crisp and clean, very balanced finish. These are generally not my three favorite white grapes, but putting them together worked pretty well. If you like these grapes, you will probably really enjoy this wine.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, August 2, 2013

There's a MONSTER lurking amongst us

Today's tasting features four offerings from Monster Vineyards, the "entry level" brand from Poplar Grove.

2009 Monster Vineyards Rose

Strawberry on the nose, but quite lemony on the palate. A unique rose, different from most that I have tasted. $17.90.

Rating: 5/10

2012 Monster Vineyards Skinny Dip Chardonnay

A sharp citrus nose gives way to a crisp and fruity palate; unoaked, and very smooth. If you like your Chardonnay unoaked, you will enjoy this. And at $17.90, a good value.

Rating: 6/10

2011 Monster Vineyards Merlot

Very light and mild with underlying notes of spice. Dull tannins and clean acidity suggest that it will not respond particularly well to aging. Should pair well with red meats. $19.90.

Rating: 5/10

2011 Monster Cabs

A Meritage blend with strong notes of dark chocolate and coffee. Tannins are very ripe. Just OK right now but will almost certainly improve with age. A very reasonable price point of $19.90 suggests if you have the patience to lay it down for a couple of years, you may end up with a steal.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What temperature do I want to serve my wine at?

Quick blog entry today, but this is an important subject. What temperature to drink wine at? Here is a handy guide.

Particularly love the 5 degree whites :-)