Sunday, August 30, 2015

Okanagan Trip part 21! La Stella takes us all the way to Italy.

A beautiful winery where we can always get excellent service and incredible scenery. They were extremely busy when we were there but the staff still took terrific care of us, making for another excellent tasting experience. Oh, and the wines range from good to freaking outstanding.

La Stella 2014 Leggiero Un-Oaked Chardonnay ($21.90)

Notes of green apple and red delicious apple. Fruity and light with crisp acidity. If you are a fan of unoaked Chardonnay, this might be just the one for you. 86.

La Stella 2012 Vivace Pinot Grigio ($24.90)

Aromas of apple, pear and meyer lemon. Pears, citrus and apple mingle on the palate. Finishes very long. 87.

La Stella 2014 Lastellina Rosato ($22.90)

Comprised of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese. Very aromatic notes of red currant, white pepper and herbs. Dark berries and cherries on the palate. Slightly off-dry. 87.

La Stella 2013 Fortissimo ($34.90)

A blend of Merlot (49%), Cabernet Franc (14%), Cabernet Sauvignon (21%) and Sangiovese (16%), An homage to Tuscany. Cherry, plum, pepper, leather on the nose. The Sangiovese really shines through, bringing along some dusty notes. This is already drinking beautifully but will certainly improve greatly with some careful cellaring...probably for at least a                                             decade. 89-91.

La Stella 2011 Maestoso  ($99.90)

Their signature Merlot. Strong aromas of dark berries, cherries, cold cuts and a hint of vanilla. The berry flavors are intense, leading to some cocoa. The finish is incredibly long and smooth. This is a top notch wine already, and I can't imagine how good it will be in a few years. I won't know, either, as we already drank ours! 94.

La Stella 2012 Allegretto ($69.90)

Another Merlot, this one planted "pie franco" (vines planted on their own rootstock in white silica sand). Cherries and black plums dominate the nose. Black fruit, coffee and a touch of vanilla and cocoa on the palate and the finish. 2012 turned into a great year and this wine, albeit still young, is going to be a great example of what this year can produce. 91-93.

La Stella 2012 La Sophia ($89.90)

Another ode to Tuscany, this big and bold Cabernet Sauvignon features powerfuly, rich, dark fruit on the nose. Some notes of leather, cassis and tobacco mingle in the background. Brooding and beautiful with a finish that seems to never end. Young, but oh so good already. I have one in my cellar and am looking forward to the day when I crack it open. Absolutely one of the                                       best Cabernet Sauvignons you will find in BC. 94.

Next up, our first trip to a very new winery, open just about a year....Maverick!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Okanagan Trip, Part Twenty!! Nk'Mip Cellars up next!

Ah yes, Nk'Mip, home of the only wine to date that received a perfect 100-point score from this highly-acclaimed writer (hey, stop laughing, that's just rude), the 2012 Riesling Icewine. I still get tingles thinking about it.

But no icewine today, just 11 regular old non-100 point table wines. I'll try not to let my lack-of-icewine-bitterness affect my enjoyment of their other fine offerings.

Dammit if I had one of those icewines I'd open it up RIGHT NOW. And it's 9:07 AM. No judgement.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2014 Pinot Blanc ($13.89)

Tropical fruit and citrus on the nose and the citrus really follows through on the palate. At that price, it's almost free. A real nice bargain. 87.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2012 Riesling ($15.69)

Grapefruit, orange peel and slate on the nose. Racy minerality and some honeydew melon on the palate. Another really good wine at this price. 88.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2014 Dreamcatcher ($14.79)

Strong fruity aromas give way to an off-dry palate of honeydew melon, citrus and meyer lemon. 86.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2012 Chardonnay ($14.79)

Very light notes of oak and vanilla on the nose. Stone fruit, baked apple and minerality on the palate and the lovely finish. At this price, an absolute steal. Probably the best $15 Chardonnay on the planet. 87.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2013 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay ($21.79)

Lovely aromas of pear, marzipan and butterscotch. Pear and caramel in abundance on the palate. Still young and already good but a bit more time in the bottle will really improve. 88-90.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2014 Rose ($15.69)

Raspberry, strawberry and a slight hint of rhubarb on the nose. The juicy palate features some cherry and citrus. This is a blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. 87.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2012 Merlot ($17.39)

Strong aromas of plum mingling with a touch of tobacco. Subtle notes of vanilla and clove on the palate. Another one that over-delivers at the price point. 88.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2013 Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir ($26.09)

Strawberry, black cherry and rhubarb on the intoxicating nose. The berries come through on the palate, intertwined with a bit of pepper and spice on the finish. 89.

Nk'Mip Cellars 2013 Talon ($19.99)

Hints of plum, cherry and cedar on the lovely nose. The plum comes right back on the palate, with a touch of pepper and caramel. Another excellent bargain. 90.

Nk'Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Syrah ($30.49)

Blueberries, cold cuts, cedar and black pepper on the nose. Meaty, herbacious and earthy notes on the palate with a lot of fruit. Just a touch of vanilla on the long finish. Impressive. 91.

Nk'Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.09)

Fruity aromas with some cedar and cassis. Rich and full-bodied. Fruit dominates the palate with just a touch of vanilla and coffee coming up near the end. Another winner and one which might really reward some careful cellaring. 90.

Nk'Mip Cellars Mer'r'iym Meritage ($43.49)

59% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc.

Blueberries, tobacco, currant, blackberries and smoke all waft through the nose. Cherry, dark berries, some earthy and tobacco notes on the palate. Finishes longer than the disbelief over Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Age-worthy and fabulous. 93.

Another really terrific tasting with nothing but quality and value from top to bottom. It says something that the first wine with a price tag over $30 was the 10th wine I reviewed. You really can't go wrong!

But still no icewine. :-(

Next up, we drive a few minutes up the road and end up in Italy, at La Stella!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Okanagan Trip Part Nineteen! Moon Curser, and probably the nicest labels in BC!

So what does a wine label mean to you? I've seen many opinions on this; one school of thought says that you need your label to stand out, to differentiate yourself from all the other labels on the shelf. Seems logical - clearly you need your wine to get purchased for the first time before you can earn a regular customer - but if the wine isn't very good, how much does it matter? Lots of wineries are all about putting great wine in the bottle and to heck with the label.

Are there consumers out there who would buy a bottle of wine because they think the label is cool? I'm not sure. If there are, I'm certainly not one of them.....but there is no denying that the labels on the wine I'm reviewing today are beautiful and unique.

Our first visit to Moon Curser....we've sampled some of their wine at random tastings and we have friends who are big fans, but this would be our first opportunity to sample a good portion of their portfolio. They plant some varietals that you don't see at many BC wineries. Let's get right to it.

And we might as well start with one of the varietals that few, if any, other BC wineries plant, a centuries-old Italian white grape.

Moon Curser 2014 Contraband Series Arneis ($25.90)

Nutty aromas with some pear, honey and green apple. The palate is enriched with strong flavors of pear and some minerality. Very, very, very dry. 86.

Moon Curser 2013 Afraid of the Dark ($21.90)

An aromatic blend of Viognier (43%), Roussanne (43%) and Marsanne (14%). Nectarines and ginger on the nose. Hints of grapefruit and citrus on the palate. Crisp and clean with a long finish. 86.

Moon Curser 2012 Cabernet Merlot ($20.90)

Their first attempt at a Cab Merlot is a pretty good effort. Dark fruits with some vanilla and cocoa on the nose. Earthy notes with a touch of caramel on the palate. Smooth. 88.

Moon Curser 2012 Pinot Noir ($24.90)

Blueberry, blackberry and cherry notes on the nose and also on the palate. Tiny hints of strawberry can also be detected. Just a tiny note of spice pops up on the finish. 86.

Moon Curser 2012 Tempranillo ($31.90)

Red fruits, tobacco and vanilla on the nose. A touch of leather on the palate but this really needs time to develop those delicious flavors that Tempranillo exhibits. It's not bad now, but has potential to really shine. 88-90.

Moon Curser 2012 Syrah ($26.90)

Intense aromas of cherries and allspice. The palate is luscious with notes of dried cherries and a touch of black pepper. 88.

Moon Curser 2012 Contraband Syrah ($31.90)

Much more peppery than the above. Hints of blackberry and some cherry on the nose. The pepper shines through on the palate, intermingling with some intense black cherry flavors. Lovely. 90.

Both of the Syrahs are nice, but for the extra $5, it's a no-brainer!

Moon Curser 2012 Malbec ($31.90)

Cherries, licorice and blueberry on the nose. Ripe fruits dominate the palate with some licorice and cola joining the party. 87.

Moon Curser 2012 Border Vines ($26.90)

Merlot (37%), Cabernet Sauvignon (22%), Petit Verdot (16%), Malbec (15%) and Carmenere (10%). Notes of blueberries and blackberries dominate the nose and come through on the palate. Some plum and spice on the palate as well. 89.

Moon Curser 2012 Petit Verdot ($31.90)

This varietal, which is usually features in Bordeaux-style blends, has aromas of violets and dark fruits. The palate has a touch of cedar mixed in with the fruit, licorice and cola. I'm still waiting to find a single-varietal Petit Verdot that knocks my socks off. 85.

Moon Curser 2013 Carmenere ($42.90)

Aromas of blackberry, anise and pepper. Juicy and fruity, featuring moderately intense pepper notes on the finish. 87.

Moon Curser 2012 Dead of Night ($42.90)

Here's a blend you don't see every day, a 50/50 split of Syrah and Tannat. Black cherry, violets and tobacco on the nose. Rich and juicy on the palate. Cherry and plum shine through. Long and smooth finish. Tannins are strong, suggesting this is going to improve greatly with a little more time in the bottle. 88-90.

So, if I were a novice wine guy and went to the wine store and bought a bottle of one of the above because I loved the labels, would I have been happy with my choice? In almost every case, I'd say the answer is a resounding "yes"!

Next up: we head up the road to the home of the 100-point icewine, Nk'mip!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Apparently this place should be featured on "You Gotta Eat Here".....

....and I say that because we were told on three separate occasions to make sure we ate at Liquidity Bistro! Three times!

We knew that wasn't going to happen, as we were going to arrive at Liquidity around 2:30 in the afternoon, after we had already eaten lunch and it was a little early for dinner....having said that, we will definitely make sure to eat there next time. The menu was attractive and the bistro was beautiful (and smelled incredible).

On to the wines!

Liquidity 2014 Pinot Gris ($20.00)

Pears, tropical fruit and green apple on the nose and the palate. The green apple really comes through on the finish, which also features just a hint of spice. 87.

Liquidity 2014 White Blend ($19.90)

Yes, that's actually the name. 64% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier, 16% Sauvignon Blanc. Tropical fruit and orange blossoms dominate the nose. The palate is slightly off-dry with hints of peach and citrus. 86.

Liquidity 2014 Viognier ($23.90)

Peach, stone fruit and a bit of honey on the nose. The palate shines with some apricot, peach and white pepper. Full-bodied and lovely. 88.

Liquidity 2013 Chardonnay ($24.90)

Lemon, pineapple and a touch of apple on the nose. A tinge of butter. Some pineapple hangs around on the palate with a touch of caramel and red apple. 86.

Liquidity 2013 Pinot Noir ($27.90)

Raspberry, strawberry, cinnamon and touch of earthiness on the nose. Cherry and raspberry are the dominate flavors, with a touch of vanilla and plum as well. Really good now and will improve with a few years                                                      of careful cellaring. 88-90.

Liquidity 2013 Merlot ($25.90)

Dark berries, violets and a touch of vanilla on the nose. Raspberry, dark plums and a touch of cocoa on the palate. Smooth finish. As with the Pinot, a few years of nap time                                                           will enhance. 87-89,

We were really impressed with this winery during this, our first visit. Excellent service in the tasting room, really good wine, and quite a view (oh, and did I mention they are supposed to have a good bistro??).

We left with a bottle of the Viognier and Pinot Noir, and a new "must-eat" spot for our next trip!

Up next, we arrive in Osoyoos and pay our first visit to Moon Curser!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cabernet Franc vs. Cabernet Franc, and the winner is.....US!!!.....

....and the freaking fruit flies which are out in force tonight. It's like even the fruit flies know great wine when they get near it.

We will return to our regularly-scheduled programming, the Okanagan wine tour review, tomorrow.... but for now, a head to head tasting of two of the best Cabernet Francs we have ever had.

The one on the left will be familiar to many of you, we've enjoyed a couple bottles of it and I had previously reported on it here, during our Napa wine trip last September.

At that time, I gave it a very nice score of 90. The last time I tasted this wine (on our Alaskan cruise), I thought I had probably underrated it. Tonight, I'm absolutely sure I did.

The one on the right is new to us, it's a super-exclusive example of this varietal from Le Vieux Pin in the Okanagan. We started off the evening by just opening up the LVP one, but quickly on decided to taste it side by side with the wine that actually got us liking Cab Franc in the first place.

It's almost inconceivable (you keep using that word! I do not think it means what you think it means!) that these are the same varietal. While the Turnbull features a spicy jalapeno mingling with berries on the nose, the Le Vieux Pin is all about cigar box and leather. There are some cherries there as well, but they linger in the background. Interesting that the younger of the wines exhibits characteristics that you might associate with aging.

On the palate, the differences are amplified. The fruit continues to dominate the Turnbull, and although the fruit flavors on the palate on the LVP are more prevalent than they are on the nose, they are still dwarfed by the leather and tobacco. The fruit comes up at the very end. Both wines have a terrific long finish, but the LVP seems to take about a month to really finish. It's quite remarkable.

As you can probably tell, we thoroughly enjoyed both far....but let's see how they pair with tonight's dinner of Beef Wellington.

God dammit, I overcooked my Welly. My wife is pleased, as she likes her steak completely ruined (in other words, Medium Well), but although mine came out of the oven perfectly Medium Rare, it was quite overdone by the time it went from pan to plate to table. This is one of the toughest culinary challenges I ever to get the pastry cooked and still keep the steak Medium Rare. I've managed to do it a few times, but from time to time I muck it up.

But I digress.

Back to the wine. The LVP went nicely with the meal, didn't seem to change much. The flavors agreed with the Wellington. The Turnbull changed more; picking up an almost Syrah-like peppery quality on the finish. I wouldn't go as far as to say it improved with the food, but it certainly didn't regress. Both were fabulous.

Which did I prefer? That's a bit like asking which of my cats I love the most. That's not true, all of our cats are great but there is no doubt that our boy cat, Jackie Chiles (yes, named after the lawyer in Seinfeld) is the most awesome. Just look at that face.

Jackie is actually French. In this picture I can hear him saying "Daddy, ah, zis is, ah, how you say, ridiculous. Now I sink you should go and, ah, cook up zome beurre blanc".

Jackson loves him some beurre blanc.

Anyway, here are my ratings on the two wines we are enjoying tonight:

Turnbull Cellars 2010 Leopoldina Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($80 USD from winery): 94

Le Vieux Pin 2011 Equinoxe Cabernet Franc ($150 CDN): 95

 Both are sublime and worth every penny.

Tomorrow, or maybe later tonight, I'll get back to the Okanagan report!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Okanagan Trip Part Seventeen! The mountain may be blue, but I'm only blue when the wine runs out!

On a trip full of beautiful wineries and picturesque scenery, this one stood right up there with the very best. Although the tasting room itself may be pretty basic, the rolling hills of vines made for quite a view.

Blue Mountain is particularly known for it's Pinot Noir, which we weren't going to be able to taste because it sells out in less than a day every time they release it. They did have four other wines for us to try, however, so here we go.

Blue Mountain Brut Gold Label (N/V) ($24.00)

Lemony and toasty on the nose and palate. Finishes tart as the lemon really shines through. 85.

Blue Mountain 2014 Pinot Blanc ($18.00)

Peach and stone fruit on the nose. Peach and apricot seemingly trade places on your palate with a touch of minerality. Finishes long. A really nice value at this price point. 87.

Blue Mountain 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.00)

Light grassy notes intertwining with aromas of citrus. Lemon and a touch of grapefruit on the palate. Definitely will improve with careful cellaring of 3-4 years. 88-90.

Blue Mountain 2013 Chardonnay ($21.00)

Citrus and toasty oak on the nose and palate. Just the right amount of buttery characteristics. A real steal at this price. 90.

We couldn't taste this at the winery, but we figured if we liked the regular Chardonnay that much, we'd probably love the reserve version , so we picked up one of those.

Blue Mountain 2012 Reserve Chardonnay ($29.90)

Aromas of apple, citrus and just a touch of oak. Lighter and fruitier than it's cheaper cousin, and this is a rare occasion where I liked the cheaper option better. Well-structured, leading me to believe it will greatly improve with some more aging. 88.

Up next: the place just about everyone told us we just HAD to eat at (which wasn't going to happen as we already had lunch and dinner plans, but we'll keep an eye out for next trip), Liquidity!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Okanagan Trip, Part Sixteen! First visit to Meyer Family Vineyards

Holy out in the middle of nowhere, Batman!!

After travelling down The Long and Winding Road (not the Beatles song), we arrived at a lovely, quaint little winery, Meyer Family Vineyards,

We had tasted a few wines here and there, but this was going to be our first try at tasting a variety of their wares. Known for single vineyard wines of a few different varietals, particularly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Meyer Family Vineyards 2012 Tribute Series Chardonnay ($30)

The Tribute Series is an annual award to an outstanding Canadian in their field. This year's tribute is Pat Quinn. Click this link to read the very interesting story behind the man and the tribute.

Fruity and lightly oaked. Notes of lemon and a tinge of butterscotch. 87.

Meyer Family Vineyards 2013 McLean Creek Road Chardonnay ($30)

A touch more oak on the nose and palate than the above. Still very light and very fruity, with a finish of citrus and toffee. 87.

Meyer Family Vineyards 2013 Gewurtzraminer ($18)

Enticing aromas of lychee, pineapple and citrus. The fruit carries through on the palate. Well balanced and tasty. 88.

Meyer Family Vineyards 2014 Rose ($20)

85% Pinot Noir, 15% Gewurtzraminer. Strawberry, cranberry and a hint of green tomato on the nose and the palate. Rich and delicate. Would pair beautifully with pasta and tomato sauce. 87.

Meyer Family Vineyards 2013 Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir ($25)

Light aromas of blackberry and plum. Rich and smooth mouthfeel, with blackberry, blueberry and a hint of spice on the finish. 88.

Meyer Family Vineyards 2013 McLean Creek Rd. Pinot Noir ($40)

Plum, blueberry, blackberry and a hint of vanilla mingle across the nose. Excellent use of oak creates a top-notch Pinot that finishes long and lovely. 90.

Meyer Family Vineyards 2013 Reimer Vineyard Pinot Noir ($40)

Blackberry, strawberry and vanilla on the nose. Red fruits dominate the palate, which is slightly less developed than the above....but still quite nice. 89.

A very pleasant tasting experience and we left happy with a couple bottles of the McLean Creek Pinot in tow. Definitely visit this one on your next trip to the Okanagan...just follow the signs (and a GPS wouldn't hurt!!!).

Up next another well regarded winery that we have never visited until this trip: Blue Mountain!!