Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What if Cirque du Soleil had a winery??

Don't laugh, it's not so far fetched.

You think these guys are just high on life? Heck no, that's just a little pre-show Chardonnay.

But I digress.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to taste some wines from Clos du Soleil.

Probably a subsidiary or something.

2011 Capella $25

White Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Lots of pleasant pineapple notes on the nose. Passionfruit and just a hint of grapefruit on the palate. Long and very rich finish.

Rating: 83

2012 Fume Blanc $19.90

Hints of pineapple and spice on the nose, lots of citrus on the palate. Tiny amount of oak can be detected in the long finish.

Rating: 80

2011 Makepeace Merlot $24.90

Your nose might enjoy some chocolate and cherries, with just a touch of pepper. Smooth and balanced palate brings cherries and plum. Would improve, probably quite a bit, with a little time in the bottle.

Rating: 80

2011 Celestiale $25

A blend of the "big 5", this wine has sweet notes of cherries and strawberries on the nose, with a touch of vanilla. Plum and blackberries on the palate, with sharp tannins that suggest some aging would only enhance.

Rating: 80

2010 Signature $39.90

A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Blackberries and vanilla greet the nose, and continue on to the palate where they are joined by black plums. The winery suggests decanting if you are opening it now; I'll suggest what we should all be doing with good red wines: put them away. Patience, children.

Rating: 82

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A great gift of great wine

So I mentioned in an earlier post that we had friends over last weekend; one of them brought us a very nice gift, which we opened last night.

2005 Quails' Gate Limited Release Chardonnay

If you have one of these in your cellar, consider yourself fortunate. It's not even available in Quails' Gate's library now.

Notes of honey, toast and roasted nuts on the nose. The palate is very rich, very complex, and very smooth. Some hints of butterscotch but they are not overwhelming. A truly excellent wine, aged to perfection.

Rating: 92

We served this last night with a recipe from my favorite wine cooking book:

Walnut and Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Chardonnay Butter.

An excellent meal, only made better with a perfect wine pairing!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New BC wine area showing much promise

Last night's tasting at Sardis Park VQA features Harper's Trail, a winery in Kamloops. Kamloops is a very new area of BC wine, featuring a similar climate to Kelowna but hotter in the summer. Time will tell what that will mean to their wines going forward.

Harper's Trail recently released their second vintage, from 2012, and I was fortunate enough to taste some very promising wines.

A vein of limestone runs through the property, seeping into the terroir, adding an interesting touch of minerality to the wines.

2012 Pinot Gris $18

Although it doesn't show in the picture, it's a light brown colour (called "vin gris" which actually translates to grey wine but whatever). Hints of apricot on the nose, less acidity than most BC Pinot Gris. Very unique and interesting.

Rating: 80

2011 Thadd Springs Riesling $19.99

Flinty minerality that you get with BC Rieslings but less dry with a touch of honey. Another unique wine.

Rating: 81

2012 Gewürztraminer $18

Again the word "unique" comes to mind. Some floral notes but less than normal and strong notes of herbs, particularly sage, come through. For that reason, seems like a perfect wine to pair with turkey and stuffing.

Rating: 80

2012 Chardonnay $20

Fruity and pleasant nose and the fruit carries through to the palate, joined by a hint of smokiness and a bit of caramel; different than the butter/butterscotch you often find in Chardonnay.

Rating: 80

For year two, this winery shows a great deal of potential, and it will be exciting to follow their progress as the years pass!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Laundry is STILL so Dirty! I clearly need a new washing machine.

Second time in just a couple weeks to taste some wines from Dirty Laundry; this time with Mark from the winery down to introduce some new releases.

2012 Hush

The strangest nose of any rose I have ever experienced; it smells like cedar. Cedar! Thankfully it doesn't TASTE like cedar, as there are strawberry and grapefruit notes on the palate. I've enjoyed this wine in the past, this vintage doesn't seem to quite measure up but perhaps it needs some more time in the bottle.

Rating: 78

2012 Pinot Gris

Notes of green apple and pear on the nose, citrus on the palate. Less acidic and more fruity than a lot of Pinot Gris. Refreshing.

Rating: 82

2012 Not-So Knotty Chardonnay

Unoaked, with notes of pear and honey, with a long citrus finish and hints of butterscotch that you'll often find in oaked Chards.

Rating: 81

2011 Kay-Syrah $25.99

Light European style; notes of flowers and white pepper on the nose. Fruity and smooth, just a hint of spice. Probably would improve with a few years of patience.

Rating: 80

2010 Bordello

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a touch of Cabernet Franc, Bordello is their big red and is priced as such ($38.99). Blackberries and vanilla tempt the nose, leading to rich flavors of cherries and a hint of tobacco. Tannins are very firm, this one would benefit from quite a bit of aging.

Rating: 77

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mission Hill; everyone deserves another chance

So, full disclosure, we intended to go to Mission Hill during our Okanagan wine tour a couple weeks ago, but we missed the turn. It worked out OK, as we ended up coming across Volcanic Hills and Mt. Boucherie, two wineries we had never visited, and found some good wines.

Still, I do intend to go back to Mission Hill next time we are up there. It worked out pretty good, as Sardis Park VQA featured Mission Hill last Saturday, so I got to do a little tasting.

I've been hard on Mission Hill in the past; basically because they are so huge and well known and I really didn't like their wine - with the notable exception of their Select Lot Collection Merlot, which, when properly aged, is outstanding - so I rated them accordingly. In the last year or so I've heard a lot of good things about how their wine has improved (even from some others who were not wild about them), and everyone deserves a second chance, so I was looking forward to this tasting.

Their Martin's Lane 2011 Pinot Noir was recently named Best Pinot Noir (under 15 GBP) in the world, but that's only available at the winery and wouldn't be tasted here. Still, that's an impressive award.

2010 S.L.C. Sauvignon Blanc

A very fruity nose, tiny hints of grapefruit, kiwi and passion fruit. The palate is full bodied and rich, very fruity as well, and a very balanced acidity. Sauvignon Blanc is not usually my favorite, but this one is outstanding.

Rating: 86

2011 Reserve Chardonnay

Again, very fruity, with lots of citrus mingling with a touch of coconut. Not the big buttery Chardonnay that I love but very well done, and very tasty.

Rating: 83

2010 Reserve Viognier

The nose might experience some green apple notes with some honey and flowers as well. Your palate will be rewarded with some apple and a touch of ginger and spice. Very nice.

Rating: 82

2011 Reserve Pinot Noir

Black cherry and raspberry on the nose, with a slight touch of minerality on the palate that you don't often get in a Pinot Noir. Also very fruit forward.

Rating: 80

2010 Reserve Shiraz

Intense aromas of dark berries with a touch of pepper waft over the nose invitingly. Full bodied, the cherry flavor really comes through with just the right amount of spice. At $22.99, an excellent value for a quality Shiraz.

Rating: 83

Pleasantly surprised, and kudos to Mission Hill for completely changing my opinion of their portfolio, at least this portion of it. Ironically, their winemaker just jumped across the street to Quails' Gate, so it will be interesting to chart the progress of these two big wineries as their 2013 and future vintages are released.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Oh what a night of wine drinking

Had a bunch of good friends over last night to watch the Colts/Broncos game, among others, and we opened up a few bottles of wine. After a nice Ehrenfelser that I previously reviewed on my Mt. Boucherie post, we got into the red.

We started with the one on the left of this picture:

Bleasdale 2009 Tempranillo Malbec, Australia  $23.99

We've been looking for a good Malbec and I think we found it. OK, OK, not a pure Malbec, in fact it's 70% Tempranillo, but it's close enough right?

Vibrant and alive, with notes of berries, flowers and a touch of spice. The palate is warmly greeted with smooth hints of white chocolate and cherries. The finish is long and inviting. An excellent wine.

Rating: 89

After that, we moved from Australia to the Burgundy appellation of France, and a naughty little Pinot:

Louis Jadot 2009 Pinot Noir ($26.99, at BC Liquor Stores)

Aromas of cherry with just a hint of spice, this wine is on the dryer side with a nice balanced acidity and soft tannins. It paired brilliantly with the pea and asparagus risotto we were serving around the time this wine made it's appearance.

Rating: 90

And if that wasn't enough, we had to get into one more terrific bottle that I had purchased the day before from Sardis Park VQA:

Cedarcreek 2007 Platinum Meritage

A blend of the usual 5 grapes (77% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), this hard to find wine (in fact the 2009 vintage is sold out at the winery, so we didn't even get to taste it during our tour) was a perfect topper to a terrific evening. At $45 it's not cheap, but it's certainly worth the money.

The nose might notice a little coffee to go with the berries, and when this wine hits your palate, the black fruits and just the right amount of spice will deliver everything you want including a long, lingering finish. Remarkable.

Rating: 92

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Okanagan Trip, the Finale

After our excellent experiences at Volcanic Hills and Mt. Boucherie on Sunday morning, it was time for the Main Event of the day; a guided tour of Quails' Gate winery, and lunch at their terrific Old Vines Restaurant.

The tour was a lot of fun; we had an excellent guide and we learned quite a few interesting tidbits about the history of the winery, the land it was on, and the wines themselves. As part of the tour we got to taste a few wines, all good, but all ones I have tasted and rated in this blog before. No need to rehash those.

After a very nice lunch, we headed to the bar to pick up some wines from their library. I don't mind putting my wine away to age appropriately, but I also don't mind paying extra from time to time to get some wines that are already aged, and ready to drink NOW. We filled up a case of various wines, and I'll report on them as we go. As it so happens, tonight we cracked open the first of those:

Quails' Gate 2005 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir

It's not often after enjoying a bottle of wine that my wife and I are generally pissed off that it's gone, but that was the case tonight. Bright red fruits, particularly cherry, dominate the nose. The tannins here are just right; firm enough to keep your interest, but not so firm to add any bitterness to the flavors. I hesitate to say this wine has hit it's peak, but if you have one of these in your cellar, I urge you to open it in the next 6-12 months. It's difficult to imagine it improving much from this.

A long, lingering finish, with just a tiny hint of spice, leaves you satisfied and wanting more. A truly special wine drinking experience.

Rating: 94

Friday, October 18, 2013

Okanagan Wine Tour part Nine

After our tasting at Volcanic Hills, it's around the corner (literally!) to a quaint little winery called Mt. Boucherie. Another one I had never visited and knew little about, short of having tasted a couple wines a while ago.

No tasting fee.

2009 Estate Collection Semillon

Bright yellow in colour and strong notes of lemon on the nose. Very fruity, lots of citrus, on the palate. Semillon has not been my white wine as of yet, but this one almost made me change my mind. There is much potential here.

Rating: 79

2011 Estate Collection Riesling

Very much like your average BC Riesling; very tart, flavors of green apple and loads of minerality.

Rating: 75

2011 Family Reserve Chardonnay

Lacking in the big buttery notes that I like so much, but still a quality wine. Apple and pear replace the butterscotch that you often get on the nose, and the fruit really shines through on the palate.

Rating: 82

2012 Estate Collection Ehrenfelser

Slightly off-dry with lemon and lime notes; reminded me just a bit of drinking a 7-up, sans carbonation. A really nice wine for $17.

Rating: 81

2009 Summit Reserve Blaufrankisch

No, that is not auto-correct run amok. That is actually the name of the grape. My first taste of this one, and I'm pretty sure the first time I've ever heard of it (although I have heard of the Australian varietal, Lemberger). Blueberries hit your nose, which I always love, but often they lead to disappointment, and that was sort of the case here. It's not bad, but it's one of those that smells outstanding and tastes pretty good.

Rating: 78

2009 Family Reserve Pinot Noir - $30

Wonderful notes of cherry with just a hint of grass on the nose, dominated by cherry on the palate. Finishes well, very silky. Good now, and another couple years laying down will only enhance it. We just about bought one of these, and would have if not for the next one....

Rating: 84

2008 Summit Reserve Syrah

Berries, berries, berries...and just a hint of pepper. Full bodied and very well balanced, this was delicious. I wouldn't necessarily say it was BETTER than the Pinot, but it was just as good in a different way; and when my wife finds a Syrah she likes, which is pretty rare, you know we are walking about of there with one. And at $25, an excellent value as well.

Rating: 84

2009 Family Reserve Summit - $28

A blend of the "big three", you get notes of blackberries with just a tiny hint of mint, and flavors of black currant and a touch of spice on the finish. The tannins are still a bit strong, suggesting that this one will much improve with some time, not that it's not drinkable now by any stretch.

Rating: 79

We really enjoyed our experience here; although the tasting room is pretty tiny, our host was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly, and that's just about all you can ask for. Not to mention the wine was darn good too!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Okanagan wine tour part 8; them Hills are on fire!!!

Up early enough on Sunday morning to hit a few wineries before our tour and lunch plans, so we head up the road to Volcanic Hills, another first time visit for me. Beautiful and HUGE wine tasting room, and an excellent host to boot.

Normally there is a tasting fee ($3 I think?) but it was waived for us on that particular day.

2011 Magma White

Fruity and very aromatic with lots of citrus and a touch of green apple on the palate. Very refreshing and drinkable, I enjoyed this quite a bit, and it's a steal at $16.

Rating: 84

2012 Single Vineyard Gewürztraminer

Floral nose with strong notes of citrus on the palate. Slightly off-dry and a touch of spice on the long finish.

Rating: 79

2012 Gamay Noir

The nose experiences strong aromas of cherry and raspberry. Your palate will still get the cherry, joined by slight hints of vanilla and clove.

Rating: 74

2010 Pinot Noir

Cherry and vanilla on the nose and light notes of berries and a touch of cinnamon on the palate. Very, very light bodied version of Pinot.

Rating: 73

2008 Syrah

Fabulous notes of raspberry jam, with hints of plum greet your nose. A truly complex wine, your palate might get plum, blackberry, raspberry and pepper. Very nice.

Rating: 84

2009 Eruption

A blend of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, your nose will be greeted with vanilla and floral notes. Strong berry flavor and a long finish.

Rating: 79

2010 Merlot

Cherry dominates the nose, along with hints of other berries and vanilla. The palate will experience some cherry as well, as well as blackberry and maybe even a tiny hint of mint. This is good now but needs to age; shows tons of promise and if you have the patience to wait until 2017 or 2018, you'll have yourself a $75 bottle of wine for only $25. We picked up one of these.

Rating: 86

2011 Zweigelt Late Harvest

If you are one of those people who cringes at the sweetness, and the price, of the finest Ice Wines, here is your solution. Only $17, and while it's still sweet, it's far less so than it's aforementioned cousins. It's really quite pleasant and we picked up one of these as well.

Rating: 86

2009 Pinot Noir Icewine

MMM MMM MMM. Sweet as you could possibly imagine, which is SO my thing. Notes of caramel and butterscotch and deliciousness.

Rating: 87

A lot of promise for a very new winery, very impressed and we will definitely make it a point of going back!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Okanagan wine tour, part VII - Starry Nights dinner and tasting

The focus of our recent trip to the Okanagan was to visit two of our favorite wineries - Quails' Gate and Cedarcreek - for special events. First up, our Saturday night Starry Nights dinner at Cedarcreek. We went there a couple hours before dinner to hit the tasting room, which is an excellent, well-organized room with knowledgeable staff.

There is a tasting fee but as they knew we were heading to the dinner they did not charge us. We tasted four wines each for a total of eight but at some point we must have lost track as I have notes on nine. We also got the wines in a particular order, to taste some together (ie the Merlot opposite the Platinum Merlot) and really compare.

2012 Riesling

Fruity with the minerality you expect from a BC Riesling, and notes of green apple on the palate. Off-dry and very nice, one of my favorite BC Rieslings.

Rating: 88

2012 Ehrenfelser

Fruity with notes of peaches and nectarines on the nose. Pears are the main flavor on the palate. Of all the wines we tasted here, this is the ONLY one I wasn't crazy about.

Rating: 85

2011 Platinum Block 5 Chardonnay

Oaked 10 months but the oak comes through very lightly; minerality on the nose and light and fruity on the palate.

Rating: 88

2010 Pinot Noir

Cherries greet your nose and continue to the palate where they are met with some raspberry. Tannins are slightly firm, suggesting another year or two in the bottle would improve what is an already drinkable wine.

Rating: 86

2010 Platinum Home Block Pinot Noir

Stunning nose of berries, plum and violets tell you that you are in for a treat; and they are right. The berries really shine through on the palate which finishes long and silky. Terrific now but put it away for a little while and you will have a special bottle of wine. A good value at $39.95.

Rating: 89

2010 Merlot

Put your nose into a glass of this and you can be forgiven if you think you've just slid your nose into a jar of strawberry jam. You'll get raspberries, not strawberries, on the palate though. A terrific entry level Merlot that is ready to go right now and is only $19.95.

Rating: 88

2009 Platinum Merlot

Oh my. This makes the above Merlot taste like Baby Duck (not really, it's just an analogy). Beautiful aromas of berries and mocha. Beautiful flavors of plums, chocolate and just a hint of pepper. Beautiful long finish and silky tannins. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Rating: 93

2010 Shiraz Cabernet

78% Shiraz, 18% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% delicious. The nose brings you currants, your palate might taste some cherries, vanilla and a touch of pepper. An absolute steal at only $22.99.

Rating: 86

2008 Platinum Syrah

Mocha and pepper greet your nose, and the mocha is joined by some vanilla flavors on the palate. Smooth and silky and a treat to drink now, and would only improve with some more time in the bottle.

Rating: 89

And after the tasting, we hit the hotel, changed for dinner, and were treated to some more special tastings:

2011 Platinum Block 2 and Platinum Block 4 Pinot Noir

What's that? Two Pinot Noirs? Yes, and they were so different that it's almost inconceivable that they are the same grape, same vintage, and grown only about 100 yards apart. In the past, they had combined these into one great Pinot, but for the 2011 vintage (which has not yet been released, we got a sneak peek), they kept them separate and made two great wines.

The Block 2 wine was incredibly floral, silky, smooth, and a great drink right now.

Block 4 was a bigger Pinot; sharper tannins, more raspberry flavors, and it was OK now but needs more time in the bottle.

I much preferred the Block 2 wine to drink right now, but I have a feeling, and I could be wrong, that the Block 4 will be a better drink after some aging. I'll be getting some of these once they are released so I'll let you know!

For now, however:

Block 2 rating: 88

Block 4 rating: 84

2001 Platinum Merlot

Yeah that is not a typo; they pulled out a bottle of 12 year old Merlot from the library. There was one pretty big problem with this wine; it wasn't for sale!! They only have a few more bottles left and wouldn't let us take any home, which was probably a good idea as I imagine it would have been a battle royal to decide who got them. I've used the word "smooth" to describe some of the other wines above, but this took smooth to a whole new level. Beautiful berry flavor with a hint of vanilla. Absolutely spectacular.

Rating: 93

2001 Platinum M

Regular readers of my wine blog have seen my previous posts on this Madeira-style wine, which was a 2004 vintage. This one was served with dessert and was excellent, although I couldn't really tell any difference between this one and my 2004.

Rating: 84

Truly a special evening and a lot of fun, hosted by winery President Gordon Fitzpatrick. Definitely a "must-visit" winery for all Kelowna trips.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Okanagan Trip, Part Six

We continue on our tour down to St. Hubertus, a winery I had never visited and was not that familiar with. We were greeted with a medium sized, very pleasant tasting room and excellent staff.

No tasting fee.

They release wines under two banners: St. Hubertus (unoaked) and Oak Bay (oaked). Of course it would be funnier if they released the unoaked ones under Oak Bay, but they are a winery, and not a comedy troupe.

2012 St. Hubertus Dry Riesling

When you put "Dry Riesling" in the title you have probably lost me, and this is a classic BC Riesling; very dry, very tart, with lots of citrus and green apple flavors.

Rating: 74

2011 Oak Bay Gewürztraminer

Done in the classic Alsatian style, you get the classic floral petals on the nose with a beautiful slightly off-dry fruity palate. Very nice and an excellent bargain at $16.75.

Rating: 82

2010 St. Hubertus Goddess

Made by women for women....but they let me taste it anyway. It's pleasant; fruity and fresh, with a touch of sweetness and minerality for balance.

Rating: 80

2011 Oak Bay Pinot Noir

Medium bodied and very fruit forward, this was our favorite red wine to this point on our tour. Plums and cherries dance across your palate with just a hint of tobacco and spicy. An excellent value at under $20.

Rating: 85

2010 Oak Bay Reserve Meritage

Well this is the first time I had this problem this trip, I can't read my notes on this wine. I see "fruity" and a bunch of scribbling. Anyway, I obviously liked it, given the score.

Rating: 83

We were quite impressed overall, and went home with a bottle of Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. We will be sure to visit again on our next trip to Kelowna.