Monday, June 30, 2014

Gehringer Brothers, and a former NHL coach, in today's entry

As we moved across the street from Hester Creek (yes I screwed up the order of Hester Creek and Silver Sage) to Gehringer Brothers, we had a bit of a time crunch, as we had an appointment for a tasting in about a half hour so we didn't have time to lollygag. Yes, I said an APPOINTMENT for a tasting; kind of rare in BC (my first one ever, in fact). More on that tasting in tomorrow's blog.

As we waited to get near the very busy counter at Gehringer Bros to taste their wares, my wife nudged me and pointed out that the man standing next to her was none other than former NHL head coach Marc Crawford! He seemed just like he does on TV; very nice and polite, but quiet and unassuming. I told him I didn't think Dallas should have fired him, to which he replied, "I agree". Well said, sir.

Gehringer Bros features a few wines you don't see much, if at all, in BC, and it's always nice to taste some varietals that are a bit off the beaten path.

2013 Auxerrois ($14.99)

This grape, sometimes called Pinot Auxerrois, features a mellow fruit profile, with just a touch of sweetness to enhance the flavors. 85.

2013 Ehrenfelser ($14.99)

Peaches, apricots and citrus on the nose and palate. Slightly off-dry and very nice. As is the Auxerrois, an excellent buy for the price. 84.

2013 Gewurtzraminer-Schoenberger ($15.99)

The only one of these in BC. Very floral nose, with some lychee and passion fruit and a touch of spice on the palate. 85.

2012 Optimum Pinot Noir ($20.99)

Plums and cherries dominate the nose. Plums continue on the palate in a very full-bodied Pinot, with a touch of pepper on the finish. 86.

2013 Minus 9 Ehrenfelser Ice Wine ($49.99)

Rich and viscous, less acidity than in some other dessert wines. Honey and white fruit dominate the palate. Beautiful. 91.

2013 Cabernet Franc Ice Wine ($49.99)

Cab Franc is rare in an Ice Wine, with concentrated berry flavors rolling over your tongue. Sweet, decadent, and delicious. 89.

Nothing but good stuff here, wish we had enough time to really savor the tasting rather than rush through it, but c'est la vie. Make sure you join me tomorrow when I report on a truly special experience.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wine tour, part four, up the road to Silver Sage

One of my friend Bob's favorite wineries, and we have never been here and never tasted anything from them; you see this winery isn't part of VQA, which is fine in and of itself. When we got there, we found out WHY they aren't VQA: a lot of their wine doesn't actually qualify as wine! It is infused with berries or other stuff that doesn't qualify for VQA status. OK, that doesn't mean it won't be good, though. Let's see.\

Oh, and the winery itself was gorgeous. So many flowers you could almost be overwhelmed by the floral smell as soon as you arrive.

The staff was excellent, and they provided cheese and pretzels to cleanse our palates as well.

Tasting fee by donation, for as many wines as you like. We tasted all 12 they were offering.

2013 Gewurztraminer ($17.95)

Roses and honey on the nose and tropical fruit on a VERY sweet palate. This was our favorite. 85.

2013 Pinot Blanc ($15.95)

Lots of citrus, lots of apples. Slightly off-dry with a pleasant finish. 83.

2013 Sage Grand Reserve ($26.95)

Here's where it gets.....odd. This is their Gewurztraminer infused with Sage. Yes, sage. It's supposed to be a perfect pairing for turkey, and it just might be. Of course, they didn't have any turkey for us to sample it with, so on it's own, it's just a bit strange. Not bad, though, just very different. 83.

2011 Merlot ($17.95)

Blackberries and plums on the nose and palate. Medium-bodied with a soft finish. Could probably use some more bottle time. 80.

2012 Pinot Noir ($21.95)

Cherries and currents are the word of the day here; just a tiny hint of pepper on the finish. Another one that would only improve with a little time in a cellar. 81.

2013 Sunset ($16.95)

A rose-ise blend of white wine and berries. Very pleasing at first, but after a few sips I found the cranberry and strawberry flavors to be a bit much. Think of strawberry Kool-aid. 80.

Then we get into the Dessert wines which are all (I believe) infused with other fruits.

2009 Merlot (Raspberry/Blackberry) ($24.95)

The raspberry reallly shines through here; not as sweet as you might expect. 79.

2013 The Pearle (Black Currant/Blackberry) ($24.95)

A light port-style wine with intense berry aromas. 76.

2012 Blueberry ($24.95)

Natural blueberry aromas and flavors. 77.

2012 Pinot Blanc (Peach/Apricot) ($24.95)

They said this one would pair well with pancakes. Finally a breakfast wine! :-) It tastes just as you would expect; like peach and apricot juice. 79.

2013 The Flame ($24.95)

OK so you are probably not going to believe me, but this is true; you can't make up s**t like this.

It's a late harvest Gewurtzraminer, with peach/apricot fruit, and a hot pepper. Yes, a hot pepper....IN THE BOTTLE! They actually had two versions; a "hot" version, which we tried, and an "OH MY GOD CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT" version, which we did not.

It's a conversation piece for sure. I was tempted to buy a bottle just to put it on display. So very intriguing, and so very strange. 76.

2012 Raspberry ($24.95)

Just like most of the others, it's very much like drinking berry juice. If you like that sort of thing, this winery may be your Nirvana. 78.

So there you have it; we very much enjoyed our experience at this winery, more than we enjoyed the actual wine itself I think, but we took home a couple bottles anyway. I'm still intrigued about the Sage wine with turkey I must confess....

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wine trip part trois, as usual, I'm up the Creek......

...Hester Creek to be exact. Interestingly, this was the first winery we left without buying anything, but it wasn't an indication of the quality of the wine; but most (if not all) of the stuff we tasted is readily available in our local VQA store, so there was no urgency....and let's face it, there is only so much room in the car!

No tasting fee for up to 5 wines. They were not tasting their big red, The Judge, on our visit.

2013 Trebbiano ($22.95)

Light and fruity with a hint of minerality, tropical fruit and some grapefruit on the palate. BC's only Trebbiano is a good one. 88.

2012 Chardonnay ($24.95)

Butterscotch and a touch of honey on the palate, leading to a lovely caramel and citrus palate. Nice long finish. 86.

2012 Late Harvest Pinot Blanc ($17.95)

Peach and apple notes roll longingly over the tongue. If you are one who likes their dessert wine a bit on the less-sweet side (unlike me!), this is an excellent choice. 86.

2012 Merlot ($18.95)

Cherries and plums dominate on the nose and palate. Silky mouthfeel, tannins are not quite softened yet. Another year or three in the bottle would only improve. 85.

2012 Cabernet Merlot ($18.95)

Blackberries with some blueberry on the nose. Flavors are a bit weak, with some plums and berries, but this could use a little more time to develop. 84.

2011 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($28.95)

Plums and raspberries dominate the nose. Some strawberry and a hint of dill join in on the palate. Drinking well now but would only improve with up to a decade in your cellar. 85.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

the Church of great wine is where I choose to pray.....

Shortly after we arrived and started tasting at Church & State, I get a tap on the shoulder, and notice it's my friend Bob and his lovely wife. Neither of us knew the other was going to be there. Freaking small world.

2013 Cuvee Blanc ($19.90)

To paraphrase Seinfeld's George Steinbrenner, "you can put orange Muscat on an old shoe and it would taste pretty good to me".

A blend of 49% Pinot Gris, 20% Riesling, 17% Orange Muscat, 14% Gewurztraminer, this lovely wine features floral notes on the nose, with stone fruits, pineapple and a touch of coconut on the palate. 88.

2013 Viognier ($20.00)

Peaches and apricots on the nose, and they continue through to the palate. Just the tiniest hint of honey joins them. One of my favorite of this varietal. 88.

2012 Chardonnay ($20.00)

More minerality than this varietal often exhibits; some apple, vanilla and a touch of butterscotch on the nose. The flavors are intense and the buttery notes are welcome. It's not as buttery as my favorite BC Chardonnays, but it's lovely nonetheless. 88.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25.00)

Blackberries and a hint of tobacco on the nose, dark fruits, tobacco and a hint of vanilla on the palate. Good now, could probably age and improve for another 3-4 years. 88.

2010 Coyote Bowl Cabernet Franc ($35.00)

Blackberries and cherries on the nose, a touch of tobacco on the palate. Long, silky mouth-feel. Seems like it is a bit closed still, and will only improve with a few more years of careful cellaring. 87.

2010 Coyote Bowl Merlot ($25.00)

A beautiful example of a top-end BC Merlot at a very reasonable price. Currents and herbs on the nose, with strong flavors of dark fruit and a bit of vanilla on the palate. Will only improve with a few more years of loving attention, but it's already great. 90.

2011 Coyote Bowl Syrah ($35.00)

Black pepper. Pepper. Pepper. Ah-chooooooooo...... if you like pepper, you are going to love the nose on this one (and I do). The pepper continues on the palate and right through to the long, lovely, lingering finish. Terrific. 91.

One of our favorites from this trip; we took home four bottles and they are going to be a treat to enjoy, now or in the future.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Oliver/Osoyoos trip begins!!! La Stella up first.

Today, the first entry from our epic trip last weekend through Oliver and Osoyoos. Our main purpose of the trip was to attend the Nota Bene Release Party at Black Hills Winery on Saturday night, and the members-only brunch on Sunday.

We have never been to this area of the Okanagan, so we were eager to get up there and hit as many of the terrific wineries as we could. It was, overall, a fantastic experience. Of course some wines were better than others, but I can't think of one single wine that we sampled that was awful.

Our trip began at La Stella. We have tasted and enjoyed many of their wines in the past, but we were eager to taste the newest releases. Here we go......

La Stella charges a tasting fee but the very friendly girl there (sorry I have forgotten her name) told me it was refunded with purchase, and I expected to buy something so I didn't even make a note of how much it was.

2013 Leggario Un-Oaked Chardonnay $25

We tend to gravitate to big, buttery Chardonnay, which generally means big oak. This one was lovely, though. Notes of apple and citrus on the nose, with well balanced acidity. Tons of minerality and fruit. 85.

2013 Vivace (Pinot Grigio) $25

Some lime and herbs greet your nose, with nice minerality and notes of lime and green apple on the palate. 83.

2013 Lastellina Rosato $21

Very aromatic, and lovely. Cabernet Franc and Merlot merge nicely in this top-quality Rose. Some dark fruits and light notes of herbs on the palate. 86.

2011 Fortissimo $35

A Tuscan blend heavy in Merlot (71%), with Cabernet Sauvignon (22%), Cabernet Franc (6%) and Sangiovese (5%). Cherries and raspberries on the palate, with a dusty finish from the Sangiovese. Even at 3 years old, this could age another 4-5 years and improve. 85.

2011 Allegretto (Merlot) $65

Cherries and blueberries on the nose and palate. Ripe tannins suggest that it's still a little young and would benefit from aging for another 5 or more years. 85.

2013 Moscato D'Osoyoos $20 for a 375ml bottle

Inspired by Moscato D'Asti of Piedmont in Italy, this low alcohol light-sparkler is lively, fresh and sweet. A perfect apertif, or to pair with spicy foods, or just enjoy on it's own. 90.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Some great (and some not so great) wine consumed this past week......

Desert Hills 2009 Cabernet Franc ($22.99)

Quite literally the first Cab Franc single varietal we have ever purchased; notes of mint and pepper on the nose and palate. Medium bodied with a lovely, long finish. Delicious. 88.

Cedarcreek 2013 Pinot Noir Rose ($18.99)

A different Rose than their past incarnations and the changes have all been for the better. Lighter and fruitier with notes of juicy strawberries. Beautiful. 88.

Quails' Gate 2012 Gew├╝rztraminer ($17.99)

This was the wine that made me love wine (I want to say it was the 2007 or 08 vintage), and this vintage is no exception. Exotic notes of lychee and spice, slightly off dry, and completely terrific. Very versatile. 92.

Wayne Gretzky Okanagan 2011 Merlot ($15.99)

Red and black berries on the nose and palate, with a touch of spice and cocoa on the finish. 79.

Fairview Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($39.90)

One of BC's most reliable of this varietal, it features notes of cherries and blueberries on the nose. A long and lingering finish featuring some cassis mixing with the fruit. Drinking well now but would have probably improved even more with a little more patient cellaring. 89.

Church & State 2008 Coyote Bowl Meritage ($34.90)

I think this is my favorite $35 wine ever, certainly in the top 2-3. Well-integrated oak mingles with the dominant berries, with all the complexity you could ask for. Tannins are smooth and silky; ready to drink now, but would certainly reward cellaring for another few years. It's a multiple Gold Medal winner for a reason. 93.

To celebrate the exciting Stanley Cup victory of my LA Kings, we popped open this beauty:

Piper Heidsieck Brut Cuvee NV ($65.00)

Full bodied with great structure. Notes of pear, ginger, citrus and a hint of grapefruit. A truly fantastic Champagne at that price point. 90.

Friday, June 13, 2014

What Happens in Vegas, Ends up in a Wine Blog (TM)

Oh wow, our first Vegas dinner ended up at Aureole, in Mandalay Bay; a restaurant that features 50,000 bottles of wine. That is not a typo. Where do they keep those bottles of wine? In a glass tower, of course.

How do they GET to those bottles?? Why, a hot girl in a trapeze, naturally.

I've always wanted to try a caesar salad served vertically.

Dinner was excellent; and if you noticed the bottle of wine on the table behind the salad tower, you may know where we are going with our first wine review of the evening.

Silver Oak 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($175 or so in Canada)

Dark purple in colour with luscious aromas of berries. Extremely fruitful on the mid-palate, finishing with cherries and berries and a hint of awesomeness. My wife described this as the best bottle of wine she had ever tasted, and with the possible exception of one bottle of ice wine, I would agree. The tannins are smooth and ripe, and this wine would only improve with careful cellaring, probably for another 10-15 years. It's tough to imagine it could improve much. 96.

The only problem with starting with this bottle was that nothing could compare; we had some other great wine, but nothing close to this one.

Zeitgeist 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($135 at restaurant)

Dark berries and some herbs on the nose. Very fruit forward, but exceptionally balanced. A nice Cab from a less-known Napa Valley producer. 90.

Paolo Scavino 1999 Bric Del Fiasc Barolo ($225 at restaurant)

Opened up nicely in the glass; was probably approaching full maturity. Fruit and earth combined beautifully in this sublime example of Italy's top grape. Tiny notes of spice and licorice on the finish. 93.

2010 Mer Soleil Chardonnay ($30 or so in Canada)

Rich and creamy without being overwhelming, with tasty notes of pineapple and coconut intermingling with citrus. For the money, a top notch California Chardonnay. 90.

2009 Penfolds Barossa Valley RWT Shiraz ($150 or so in Canada)

Deep purple in colour with dark fruits and a hint of oak on the nose. Blackberries and some spice on the palate. Velvety but could improve with some more time in the bottle. 89.

2012 Gobelsburger Kamptal Gruner Veltliner (about $18 in Canada)

Citrus and stone fruits on the nose, with great minerality and acidity on the palate and finish. I believe this is my first wine from Austria, and it was very pleasant. 85.

2012 Irony Small Lot Reserve Pinot Noir ($20ish in Canada)

Dark cherries and plums on the nose and palate. Some cocoa and violets as well. Started out very pleasant, but interestingly, became less so as it sat in the glass. 84.

2011 Gianni Doglia Moscato d'Asti ($20ish in Canada)

A bubbly Muscat that screams "drink me with dessert"!!! So we did. Low in alcohol (5%) but high in enjoyment. 89.

2006 Louis Latour Beaune Pinot Noir ($200 in restaurant)

Light and fruity, notes of cherries and dark fruit. While it paired well with my grilled salmon, it would have improved with more time in the bottle. Tannins were a bit sharp. 87.

2006 Torre Muga Rioja Tempranillo ($175 in restaurant)

Purple ink in colour with aromas of berries and tobacco. Spice and earth meet with the fruit on the palate. Possibly it's still a bit young as the tannins were not as smooth as you might expect on a wine of this age. 87.

2012 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon ($89 in restaurant)

Black currants and plums on the nose. Full bodied with a long, lingering finish. A lovely example of a reasonably priced California Cab Sauv. 88.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Catching up on a week's worth of wine!!

Actually it's probably more like 2 weeks....a bottle here one night, three bottles the all adds up! So here we go:

Paul Hobbs 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($50ish)

An excellent example of a quality RRV Chardonnay; floral notes on the nose, intermingling with some lemon and butterscotch. Not hugely buttery on the palate, just the right balance of oak and fruit and minerality. Just delicious. 92.

Renwood 2011 Zinfandel

Previously enjoyed and reviewed, here.

La Crema 2011 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($30)

One of the premiere California Chardonnay producers, La Crema makes about a dozen different levels and price points of their signature grape. This is is near the low end, and it shows. Citrus on the nose, with a hint of apple and orange on the palate. It pales in comparison to others we have tried previously, but it's still good. 84.

Gray Monk 2011 Reflection ($18.99)

Made from Orange Muscat grapes and gently fortified, this is the quintessential "oh what the heck let's open up a big sweet white wine". If you are one of those who only enjoy white wines so dry they pucker your lips, stay away, but if you really want decadence, this is the wine for you. Pairs beautifully with anything a bit spicy, with friends on the patio, or with a second bottle. 88.

Wolf Blass 2012 Red Label Shiraz/Cabernet ($18.99)

The 2011 vintage was recently listed on Natalie McLean's list of the 20 best wines under $20, and I can attest this vintage is just as good. Medium bodied and luscious; berries on the nose and in the glass. The Shiraz adds just a touch of spice to the finish. Pairs great with any big read meat, or the burgers that we enjoyed with it last night. 87.

Oh, BY THE WAY, does anyone know a good divorce attorney?? My wife brought this to me tonight in a Pinot Noir glass. What am I, an animal???

Neal Family Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)

Dark fruits and a hint of chocolate on the nose. Very rich and decadent on the palate, with a hint of spice on the finish. It's good, but I think we popped it early; it could have benefited from another 5-10 years in the cellar, I think. 86.

Cedarcreek 2010 Cabernet Merlot ($19.95)

This would be on MY list of the 20 best wines under $20, no question. Cherries and berries galore on the nose and palate. 21% Cabernet Franc brings just a touch of sweetness and mint to the table. Plums shine through on the palate as well. Juicy and terrific. 86.