Sunday, September 29, 2013

A pretty damn good wine-buying day......

I'll let a picture tell the story first.

Took a good friend out for breakfast for his birthday (which happens to be today; happy birthday!) yesterday in North Vancouver, where I was born and raised. Being in North Van gave us the opportunity to do something that we don't get in Chilliwack: to hit some seriously fabulous wine stores. Don't get me wrong, my favorite wine store is in Chilliwack, but it's BC VQA only, so if you want to peruse wines from other parts of the world, there isn't much out here except some smaller government run liquor stores that don't have much selection.

So after breakfast, we all headed up the street to Everything Wine, one of those wine stores that you could easily spend an entire day in and not really get to see everything. It's just huge. In the back of the store is the "vintages" room, where the REALLLLLY good stuff is kept. And in that room, I was able to find the exact thing I was looking for, the 2008 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon on the far right of the picture. This is exactly the wine that Tracey and I had at Victoria & Albert's in March; if you've read this blog, you know the story. If not, check out either of these two posts:

As I was checking out some of the other fine wines in the store, my buddy went and quietly bought us that bottle for our Anniversary! What a guy.

So, already in possession of a $75 bottle of wine for nothing, I decided to go check out the BC wines and see if they happened to have any older vintages of Black Hills Nota Bene available. And as you can tell from the picture, they had one bottle of 2010 left! That one goes into our library, right next to the 2011 vintage we already had. Our Nota Bene collection has doubled :-)

Already a pretty good day, we headed to Park Royal to do a little shopping. First and foremost, to Liberty Wine Merchants, a wine store that couldn't be much different from Everything Wine except for one thing; they both have great wine! Liberty is a tiny store; and I mean tiny. I can only imagine they have a lot of broken bottles every week from customers knocking them over sliding through the tiny aisles. They make excellent use of their space though, as they have an incredible selection of wines at a variety of price points (more expensive than inexpensive, but you can get some cheaper bottles there too if that's what you like). You won't find any boxes of Hochtaler, of course (thank God).

After talking to their two very knowledgeable staff members, they made some recommendations which we picked up. Left to right from in the picture:

Bleasdale 2009 Tempranillo Malbec, Australia  $23.99

Domaine Marcilhac 2006 Tradition (80% Malbec, 20% Merlot), France $19.99

d'Arenberg 2008 Love Grass Shiraz, Australia $27.99

I will report on these once I've had a chance to taste them. I think I'll put the Shiraz away for a few years, but the other two probably won't sit for long, the information I can find on them suggests that they are ready to go now.

Pretty good day!!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Anniversary Dinner; for real this time

As much as we loved the Hamburger Helper dinner that we had on Wednesday, our actual Anniversary, tonight we did the Anniversary Dinner thing for real; sort of.

Normally on such an occasion I'd go hog wild, spend all day cooking a fabulous meal and serve it with a great bottle of wine. Today, however, we had plans most of the day, so we kept it simple yet nice:

Filet Mignon
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Asparagus with Beurre Blanc sauce

Certainly an excellent dinner, but nothing particularly special; we probably had a similar dinner 20 times over the summer. Still, with limited time to work with, a pretty damn good meal.

For the "special wine" part, we had many good ones to choose from, including an amazing bottle that a very good friend bought us for our Anniversary. More on that, and some other fabulous wine shopping we did today, in tomorrow's blog. We decided to go with a classic:

2008 Quails' Gate Pinot Noir

Without a doubt, our favorite "regular" Pinot Noir. This wasn't just any bottle, however, this was a nicely aged 2008. Absolutely superb. This would probably have still been great if we'd let it sit for another year or two, but it seemed like a good bottle to open tonight and certainly did not disappoint. Pinot Noir is the flagship product of this great winery and they do it like no other. Fab-u-lous.

OH OH OH OH OH......I almost forgot what might have been the most exciting part of dinner! Did we ever find another fantastic use for our Cedarcreek Platinum "M"!
It is great for it's intended purpose - as a digestif or aperitif - but let me tell you, that is one hell of a wine to use in sauce! It gave the beurre blanc sauce an extra je ne sais quoi; an extra little something that kicked a normally terrific sauce up a notch or two.

As a wine, I think I previously rated this a 7/10. In beurre blanc sauce, I'm giving it a 9.5! Beautiful.

What else do these two great wineries have in common? We are visiting them next weekend! Dinner at Cedarcreek on Saturday, lunch at Quails' Gate on Sunday. Looking forward to both!! I'll have a full report on that trip sometime the week after we get back and I have recovered.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Celebrating with some fabulous BC bubbly

Nine years ago tonight, my beautiful (and obviously a little crazy) wife did me the honor of marrying me. To celebrate this very special occasion, we went all out. For dinner?

Hamburger helper.

Yeah so we both worked all day and that was about all we had the energy for.

What goes with Hamburger Helper and a 9th wedding anniversary?

2011 Sperling Vineyards Sper...itz

An amazing light bubbly, sweet enough to cut through the acidity of the Hamburger Helper Lasagne flavor (I cannot believe I just typed that sentence) but not too sweet. Very, very refreshing. Highly recommended to celebrate your next special occasion. At only $12.99 (375 ml bottle), it's almost free.

Rating: 7.5/10

Happy Anniversary to the most amazing woman on the planet! This picture was taken at a slightly classier meal than the one we had tonight.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

a winery tag team match, to the death

An interesting tasting yesterday at Sardis Park VQA as two wineries went mano a mano for the undisputed Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon championship of the WORRRRRRRRRRRRLD......

OK perhaps not "the world".

In this corner:

(Interesting note, when I typed Rollingdale into my Iphone it autocorrected it to "rolling fake". hmm I wonder if that is a sign of things to come with their wines??)

Rollingdale 2009 Merlot la Droite

la Droite (French for "the right") is a nod to the assemblage of the right bank of Bordeaux which is primarily Merlot.

Grapes for this come from two very distinct vineyards; one in Oliver, one from Okanagan Falls.

A note of chocolate on the nose and vanilla and berries on the palate. Tannins were stiff and I found this a little flabby, but a couple more years in the bottle would probably flesh the flavors out a bit.

Rating: 5.5/10


Rollingdale 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon la Gauche

la Gauche ("the left") is a nod to the left bank of Bordeaux, primarily Cab Sauv.

Brooding dark fruit with hints of earth and minerals; Medium bodied, a bit underwhelming on the mid-palate and the finish. It could use some more time in the bottle, but at $24.95 I think there are better options.

Rating: 5.5/10


Summerhill 2010 Merlot

Aromas of plum and chocolate, a little vanilla on the palate as well. It's good now but would be well served to age for a few more years; the tannins are a little bit stiff.

Rating: 6/10


Summerhill 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Fabulous aromas of blueberries and flowers make this one pleasing on the nose, and it's pleasing on the palate as well. It's medium-bodied and finishes with hints of earthiness. This was by far my favorite of the four wines we tasted today and the only one I purchased to enjoy at home. As close to the beautiful Cabernet Sauvignons that you can find in Napa Valley as I've experienced in a BC Cab Sauv. At $26.95, it's a lot cheaper than those big Napa wines. If you have the patience to lay this down for another year or two, it will pay off in a big way, IMO.

Rating: 7.5/10

So this was an unquestionable knockout for me; Summerhill wins this battle easily. All four wines were pleasant and I'd be happy to sit down with a glass of any of them, but for me the Summerhill Cabernet Sauvignon was a clear choice to add to my collection. I will lay it down until 2014 or 2015 and see what it is like then.

Here's the great thing about wine; the store was doing an informal poll of their customers as to their preferences, and  as I left the store yesterday after my tasting, Rollingdale was winning the poll handily. Wine is such a personal thing, especially when you have well-made wines like these.

Of course, that just means those people are wrong.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Tinhorn Creek comes to town

A while ago I was fortunate enough to interview Sandra Oldfield, CEO/Winemaker from Tinhorn Creek. At the time I mentioned to Sandra that I wasn't very familiar with their wine and was looking forward to Sardis Park VQA featuring their wines so that I could finally get a taste; I've never been to Oliver, where they are located. Well, today was that day. I was excited and a little bit nervous as well; I am always honest with my ratings but I didn't want to have to tell Sandra, who was so generous with her time for my little wine blog, that I didn't like her wine!

Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about.

2012 Pinot Gris

Beautiful honeysuckle on the nose and pear with a hint of melon on the palate. Smooth and fruity. This is by FAR my all-time favorite Pinot Gris. At $18.99, go buy one right now.

Rating: 7.5/10

2012 Chardonnay

Very lightly oaked, lacking in the buttery notes that I love in a Chardonnay, but if you are a fan of non or lightly-oaked Chardonnay, this is the one for you. Smooth and very drinkable.

Rating: 5.5/10


2012 Gewürztraminer

Aromatic roses greet the nose, grapefruit and a touch of spice on the palate. One of the dryer Gewurtraminers I have tasted but still very good. $18.49.

Rating: 6/10

2011 Merlot

Aromas of red berries and vanilla. The berries continue through to the palate, joined by a hint of blueberries and plum. Aged for 12 years, the tannins are smoothing out, but another year in the bottle would only enhance what is an already drinkable wine. A very reasonable ticket of $19.99 guarantees you get good bang for your buck.

Rating: 6/10

2009 Oldfield Series Syrah

Putting my nose in the glass was like being punched in the face by a jar of berry jam dipped in pepper. Supple with a smooth, lightly spicy finish. At $34.99 it's not going to be everyone's "go-to" red, but if you are a fan of Syrah it's worth the price.

Rating: 6.5/10

2009 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red

A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it brings notes of blackberry and cassis on the nose. A very slight touch of mint on the finish is a nice touch. This is very drinkable now and could lay down for 4-5 more years (at least) if you have the patience. At $29.99, it's a good bargain now and if you have the time to wait and let it age a bit, you will almost certainly have an incredible steal.

Rating: 7/10

From top to bottom, a terrific portfolio of wines. I was actually going to buy the Pinot Gris but I was in a hurry, I'll go back tomorrow to buy one. This will be the first Pinot Gris I have ever bought after a tasting. Normally it's just not my thing, but this one hits all the right notes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bobby Heenan would love these wines.....

.....tonight we pay a virtual visit to Red Rooster winery complements of Sardis Park VQA who had a tasting of their wines last weekend.

By the way, if you understand the title of this blog post, a hearty congratulations. You can drink wine with me anytime.

2011 Chardonnay $16.99

Lacking in the buttery notes that I love in a Chardonnay but if you are one who loves their Chardonnay light, fruity and unoaked, this might be for you.

Rating: 5/10

2011 Riesling $16.99

Regular readers are probably tired of my frequent comments about BC Rieslings, so I won't repeat them; this one was a little less dry than many, with vibrant citrus and green apple on the palate.

Rating: 6/10

2011 Pinot Gris $15.99

Very light, and I mean VERY light, with some fruit flavors. The palate shows a hint of spice. One of the least flavorful wines I think I've ever tasted.

Rating: 4/10

2010 Reserve Meritage  $24.99

Strong pleasant notes of berries greet your nose. Black currents mix with the berries and a touch of spice on the palate. Tannins are strong, suggesting another year or two in the bottle wouldn't hurt.

There are many better Meritages out there, but they tend to be at least $10 more, so if price point is important to you, this is a pretty good value.

Rating: 6/10

And here's a bonus rating for you. On Friday night I had dinner in Vancouver at a restaurant that doesn't exactly feature a world class wine list; I went for the most expensive glass of wine they had, a whopping $6.75 glass of Cabernet Merlot...and it was from Red Rooster! I didn't know that I'd be tasting the same winery the next day.

2010 Cabernet Merlot

Pleasant notes of berries on the nose, and even better when it hits the palate. For the price I paid, this was a pretty respectable glass of wine.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Corks vs. Screw caps; which is better?

A 10 year old there a definitive answer? Well, Australian wine giant Wolf Blass thinks there is. This is copied directly from their website:

It’s been over ten years now since the humble screw cap was widely reintroduced as a closure for Australian wines, so we wanted to revisit the great debate about screw caps versus cork today to see how they’re stacking up and whether the claims about screw caps are still supported.
One of the most frequent questions we’re asked as winemakers is whether or not screw caps are better closures than cork. We also find that lots of people think screw caps are great for white wines, but that reds, especially those designed for ageing, can only ever reach their full potential under cork.
Wolf Blass Screw Cap
As winemakers, we put our heart and soul into perfecting our wines right through from picking grapes to the final bottling, and we nurture and coddle them all the way. But once the wine is in the bottle we lose all control of how the wine develops. For us, it’s very important that when the bottle is opened it’s in the condition we intended when it left the winery, not afflicted by the ravages of cork taint.

So what exactly is cork taint?

Conservatively, at least 10% of wines bottled under cork are considered “corked”, in other words they’re affected by cork taint, an undesirable character caused by a fungal-meets-chemical reaction occurring within the cork. This results in the compound known as 2-4-6-trichloroanisole or TCA.
TCA manifests in such delightful odours as wet dog, wet hessian, mouldy cardboard, damp basements and the like – I think you get the gist – just what you want to pair with that delicious twice-cooked duck breast you just ordered! And TCA at low levels is almost more of a concern than it is when it’s really rampant. Low levels of TCA often simply dull the fruit flavours causing many of us to write off a great wine because it just didn’t taste that good – even though the culprit was actually the cork, not the wine.

Other cork problems

But TCA is just the tip of the iceberg. Many wines (perhaps even 100% of wines bottled under cork) are in some way affected by the corks. The corks themselves can “scalp” fruit characters, flattening and dulling the wine and imparting a corky, woody flavour, especially obvious in whites. And as cork is a natural substance, there will always be some amount of variation and inconsistency from one bottle to another.
“There is no such thing as a great old wine, only a great old bottle.”

Enter the screw cap

One of the best things about screw caps is the reassurance that each bottle of wine will look exactly like the next one, and the wine will be presented to you exactly as the winemaker intended.
Screw caps eliminate almost all closure-related taints in wine including TCA, glue taints from agglomerate corks, plastic taints, which can often be picked up from plastic corks, random oxidation and corky, woody flavours from the corks themselves. Although the occasional taint may still sneak through with screw caps, the incidence is more like one in a million bottles rather than one in ten.

Screw caps and ageing

Screw caps provide a near-perfect, airtight seal whereas corks allow small amounts of oxygen to penetrate over time. It’s sometimes thought that because oxygen is unable to penetrate the screw cap, the wine cannot age. This is a fallacy. Wines do age under screw cap – all wines.
Oxygen, while it does act as a catalyst for ageing, speeding up the process, is not required to age a wine. Many corks allow in so much oxygen that they significantly oxidise the wine during bottle ageing prematurely turning it brown and obliterating the fruit (think of the browning that takes place when you cut an apple). 
Screw caps allow the ageing process to take place without oxidising the wine, meaning the wine ages gracefully with more vibrancy, freshness and consistency than a wine aged under cork. Wines aged under screw caps seamlessly integrate the natural fruit with complex bottle development characters, making for a better drink over a longer period of time.

Screw caps and cellaring

Screw caps are much more forgiving of cellaring conditions. Wines bottled with corks need to be laid flat to keep the cork moist whereas wines under screw cap can be stored upright for any length of time. Corks expand and contract with fluctuations in temperature, but the robustness of screw caps means they’re far more resistant to temperature change. Screw caps are also resistant to humidity and odours.

Screw caps and convenience

Last but not least screw caps are easy to open – there is no need to have a a cork screw handy, you can take a bottle anywhere, and if you don’t drink it all you can reseal the bottle and take the rest home. And once you’ve finished, both the bottle and the aluminium screw cap are fully recyclable.
My personal opinion? Well I'm not a winemaker or an expert; but doesn't what this article says make SENSE? It does to me. If nothing else, wines with screw caps are a hell of a lot easier to store, and a hell of a lot easier to open. That's not everything; but it's something.
What do you think? I'd love to hear the other side. Are there any "corkies" out there?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

All Canadian Gold, Part II

The second of back-to-back tastings at Sardis Park VQA featuring All-Canadian Gold medal winners. Let's get right to the action:

See Ya Later 2011 Riesling

Yeast and citrus greet your nose, finishing crisp and dry on your palate. I've gone on ad nauseum about BC Rieslings not being my thing, and this is no different, but it's not bad, and a nice price point at $16.99.

Rating: 4.5/10

Hillside 2012 Gewürztraminer

Honeysuckle and citrus on the nose, and a very intriguing mix of citrus, kiwi and a kiss of ginger greet your palate. At $18.99 it's priced reasonably and if you like ginger like I do, this is a very different and attractive option for Gewürztraminer lovers.

Rating: 6/10

See Ya Later 2010 Pinot Noir $22.00

Fruity and dry, hints of strawberry, cherry and blueberry. Tannins are strong as is the acidity. Far from a great Pinot.

Rating: 4/10

Moraine 2012 Cliffhanger

A blend of Merlot and Malbec, your nose will welcome hints of cherry, chocolate and raspberry. The slightest hint of chocolate prevails on your palate, joined by blackberry and other red fruits. Currently on sale for about $17, and at that price, it's a steal. Very intriguing.

Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, September 6, 2013

All Canadian Gold Winners, Part 1

Sardis Park VQA is featuring Canadian Gold Medal winners this weekend. Let's get right to today's tasting:

Church & State 2012 TreBella

An enticing blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, the TreBella has a beautiful floral nose that gives way to hints of apricot and peach, with a flinty minerality at the finish. This would be a perfect compliment to most seafood dishes or an evening with friends on the patio. At $20.90, it's a solid value.

Rating: 6.5/10

Arrowleaf 2012 Snow Tropics Vidal

This is one of the best sellers every month (THE best seller three or four months in a row if memory serves), and I have to say I think it's a bit overrated. It's good - don't get me wrong - and if you like sweeter whites, you may enjoy this (apparently everyone but me loves it, given the lofty sales). But as someone who LOVES sweeter whites, this one just doesn't measure up to others. It's very affordable, $16.05, so maybe that has something to do with it's popularity.

Rating: 5.5/10

Moon Curser 2010 Dead of Night

Medium bodies with notes of plum and cherry on the nose which continue through to the palate. The finish brings a hint of smokiness to enhance the fruit flavors. It has a very balanced acidity, and could probably be enhanced with another year or two in the bottle. At almost $38, it's hard for me to recommend it over reds in that price range. In fact, I'd recommend you save a few bucks and buy the next one on my list.

Moon Curser does have some of the best bottles in the industry, as this picture proves.

Rating: 5.5/10

Quinta Ferreira 2008 Obra-Prima $34.90

You get notes of black cherry on the nose, but it comes with something different.....something I couldn't put my finger on, I confess. After checking out the tasting notes, I got it; bell pepper!! That's not something I can remember experiencing before. This wine has a delicate, fruity balance, which finishes off with a touch of spice. Very smooth.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Yesterday Rose.....Today, Rose....

Rose, the wine, not rose, the flower, that is.....

Tasting at my local VQA featured a trio of rose wines, each made with a different grape, for contrast. Also a couple miscellaneous new wines to try as well.

Le Vieux Pin 2011 Vaila Rose $22

Made with Pinot Noir, it presents a pale salmon colour and notes of rhubarb and pink grapefruit on the nose. Dry and fruity, with a little more grapefruit than I like in a rose, but of the three I tried today, by far my favorite.

Rating: 5.5/10

Moon Curser 2012 Nothing to Declare Rose $21.90

A dark red colour, made from Syrah. My wife described this as her least favorite rose, EVER. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it was close. It's crisp and dry, and the fruit flavors just didn't work.

Rating: 3/10

La Stella 2011 LaStellina Rosato $20.90

100% Merlot, and the least dry of the three. This would pair well with spicy Thai or Indian dishes, neither of which I like, which may explain my disdain for the wine.

Rating: 4/10

Eau Vivre 2010 Malbec

The nose brings tobacco, raspberry and strawberry. The palate is loaded with black cherry, chocolate and vanilla. Tannins are soft and acidity is balanced. An entry level Malbec at $22.

Rating: 4.5/10

Township 7 2009 Merlot

Fruity on the nose and palate, with little complexity or punch behind it. At $24.99, there are many better options out there.

Rating: 3.5/10

One of the least successful tastings I've been to in some time. I guess they can't all be world class though can they?