Sunday, October 25, 2015

Everyone goes to Disneyland for wine, right?

Well OK there may be a few other things there as well, but wine lovers certainly don't have to suffer.

First of all, let me introduce you to a new chain of wine stores called Vino Volo. They are in airports around the country, and we stumbled across it while at SeaTac waiting for our flight.

Not only do they sell lots of wine (and you are already through security so no problem getting it on the plane), they have a lovely menu of small bites and lunch-type items...and beautiful charcuterie, which we engaged in. MMM MMM MMM. THIS is how to fly.

We tasted a total of seven wines from Washington and Oregon, all lovely. Prices listed below are the per-bottle price at Vino Volo....remember it's a store and a restaurant, and you are paying restaurant prices. In a wine store, prices are about 50-70% of those listed.

Illahe Vineyards (Willamette Valley, Oregon) 2014 Gruner Veltliner ($36.00)

Crisp, dry and medium-bodied, with notes of citrus, white pepper, lime and hints of baking spices. Intriguing and enjoyable mouth feel. 89.

Rasa Vineyards (Columbia Valley, Washington) 2009 QED ($84.00)

71% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 12% Mouvedre, 3% Viognier

Cherry, roses and spices on the nose. Juicy, spicy and supple, with floral lift to the flavors of red berries, cherries and a touch of spice. Creamy and ripe with a very restrained sweetness. 88.

Leonetti Cellars (Walla Walla, Washington) 2013 Merlot ($119.00)

The nose is assaulted by pure berries; strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Floral notes intertwined. The berries follow through on the palate. Fantastic acid punctuates the long and lovely finish. This is a fabulous Merlot and will only get better with some aging. I'll let you know if I'm ever able to get a bottle from the winery; I just joined the waiting list which estimates a 3-4 year wait. 92-95.

Abeja (Columbia Valley, Washington) 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($76.00)

Black currants, blackberries, earth, smoke and chocolate. Firm tannins, full-bodied and elegant. Lingering finish. Another one that will benefit from some more nap time. 90.

Lange Estate (Willamette Valley, Oregon) 2012 Pinot Noir ($43.00)

Black cherry, raspberry, pomegranate and earth on the nose. Cherries, chocolate, cola and light nuttiness are featured in this bright, soft Pinot. 89.

Willakenzie Estate (Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon) 2012 Gisele Pinot Noir ($55.00)

Aromas of vanilla, cherries, cedar and orange jump from the glass. Rich mouth feel. Ripe red fruits and spice on a long, lingering finish. A beauty. 91.

Stoller Family Estate (Dundee Hills, Oregon) 2012 Pinot Noir ($39.00)

Floral notes mixing in with aromas of raspberries and cherries. Hints of clove and cinnamon. The palate features a host of ripe red fruits, bright acidity and medium tannins. 90.

I'd say that's a pretty decent amount of good wine for a 5-day trip, and we aren't even on the plane yet! We took one of the Willakenzie Estate Pinot with us and thoroughly enjoyed it in our room a couple days later.

Up next: Disney, part 2: the wine we enjoyed at various restaurants during the trip.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

who the HELL makes wine in a clay amphora???

Cedarcreek does.

I would imagine about 90% of you are currently asking yourself, "should I know what a clay amphora is?".

Probably not. I certainly didn't.

Basically it's just a big clay pot, and it was what wine was made in before barrels. I'm talking Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

But apparently, in the past few years, clay has been making a comeback. Here is a link to a very interesting article published in 2012 about the resurgence of clay amphoras.

But, of course, that article is all about the rise of this style of winemaking in Europe. Nobody in CANADA would be so brazen or so foolish, would they?

Darryl Brooker is.

Darryl, the winemaker at Cedarcreek for the past few years (before being poached by Mission Hill), decided to buy an amphora from Chianti in 2013 and produce Canada's first and only (I presume) wine made in such a container.

In an interview with prolific wine writer John Schreiner, Darryl explained the process:

“The thought process behind this choice was that I wanted to leave the wine on skins for a long time and see what happened to the character of the wine,” he explains in a narrative released with the wine. “The wine was essentially an amphora trial. I decided not to line the amphora with beeswax or any other lining [leaving] completely natural clay in contact with the wine.”

Some 500 kg of berries, which were harvested October 28, 2013, went into the amphora without the addition of either sulphur or acid.

“We sealed the amphora and walked away,” he continues. “My big surprise was how hard it was to do nothing.”

He resisted the temptation to open the amphora and taste the wine. “This would have spoiled the trial,” he explains. “It took immense will power but I held strong and after almost eight months on the skins, we decided to open and press off the amphora. … I was totally expecting the wine to be challenging and potentially spoiled.”

Like a vintner in ancient Rome, Darryl pressed the grapes by foot, perhaps because CedarCreek did not have a basket press small enough. “The wine was exceptionally fresh with amazing earthy herb notes,” his narrative continues. “I was even more surprised by the rich and balanced tannins in the wine; they were not too harsh or extracted. I believe this is due to the high oxygen transmission rate in the amphora, which helped t0 polymerize and soften the wine.”

Deciding against putting the wine in oak, he aged it a further eight weeks in stainless steel and then bottled it, unfiltered and with no additives.

“The amazing part is that this wine has never had any added preservative (sulphur dioxide) and it has not had any yeast or malolactic bacteria added,” the narrative continues. “It is a truly natural wine at 14.8% alcohol. It has no residual sugar or residual malic acid. It is amazingly fresh and I now believe it will have a relatively long life ahead of it.”

They made only 30 cases, 360 bottles. I was lucky enough to get the last two bottles that were available for purchase, and tonight we cracked on of them open.

I asked Darryl about aging the wine. When I ask about aging a wine what I am really asking is "will it IMPROVE with age", but Darryl's answer was basically "I don't know". Makes sense I suppose, this is the first time a wine like this has ever been produced in BC. If I had a bunch of them I would put one away for a decade just to find out. Since I only have two, not gonna happen.

Cedarcreek 2013 Desert Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Amphora Project ($52.99)

Rich purple in colour, the nose is assaulted with herbaceous notes intertwined with plum, cherry, mint and cigar box. A rich and full mouthfeel. Berries overwhelm the palate, with black cherry and tobacco on the finish. Very smooth with a long and luscious finish. This is a real treat. 93.

Sorry to say that if you don't already have some of this, you aren't likely to find any, as it sold out in no time. Don't despair, though, as apparently they also did this for 2014, so next year there is more to come. Pay attention, though, as I doubt they are making much of it. It's too special for that.

Monday, October 12, 2015

FINALLY, the Main Event, the Nota Bene Release Party at Black Hills!

Only took me three and a half months to get to it!

This was the second year we have attended this event and it's tough to imagine we won't go every year. It's a fabulous evening of food and wine, and this year they ratcheted up the entertainment quite a few notches. Last year the entertainer was some generic white rapper (and basically if you are a white rapper and your name isn't Eminem I am not going to be interested) who was really quite terrible. This year, they brought in former Barenaked Ladies front man Stephen Page! Just a bit of an upgrade.

He put on an excellent performance, except when he pretty much completely forgot the words to one of their biggest early hits, "Enid". Give him credit though, he didn't just try to mumble through, he screamed to the crowd "dammit I forgot the words, who knows the words to this song??". LOL. He was friendly and patient, taking pictures and chatting with anyone who asked.

As always, the wine was flowing. And flowing and flowing. It was our first taste of many of the wines.

Black Hills 2013 Carmenere ($35.00)

Blackberries, cherry and a touch of forest floor on the nose. Palate is dominated by berries and is juicy with a long finish. Tannins were really intense when we tasted it, suggesting that this will improve quite a bit with some time in the cellar. We took our allotment and put it all into the cellar and will report back when it matures. For now, this was a bit underwhelming. 86.

Black Hills 2013 Syrah ($36.90)

Aromas of black cherry, blackberry, smoke and a touch of spice. Blackberry and cherry come through on the palate, joined by a touch of cigar and coffee. Another one which is going to much improve with some more time but is quite nice now. 88-91.

Black Hills 2013 Per Sé ($50.00)

Due to the limited amount of Carmenere available, this blend of Cabernet Franc (62%) and Syrah (38%) was produced to meet the club members allocations. It will probably never exist again, which is really a shame. Hope I'm wrong on that. Notes of clove, vanilla, meat, blackberry and cedar waft over your olfactory senses. Flavors are complex and juicy. Dark chocolate, vanilla, cold cuts, ginger and even a touch of orange. Intoxicating aromas and flavors. It's really quite spectacular for a first effort at this combination. 92.

Black Hills 2013 Nota Bené ($55.00)

Back to the more traditional Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend after the 2012 was Merlot-heavy. 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc.

An exceptional 2013 growing year really shows through in this one. Aromas of black fruit, ripe cherries, violets, mint and a touch of spice. Rich and juicy palate featuring some berries, spice, smoke and cigar box. Full bodied with well-integrated tannins but another one that will smooth itself out with some careful cellaring. Unlike a lot of Cabernet blends it's quite drinkable now but if you can wait a while, you won't be sorry. 93-95.

Well there you have it, finally the Okanagan trip report is finished. Hope you all enjoyed the read.

Next up: Our Disney trip last month also produced some great wine tasting!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Okanagan Trip Part 28 at Tinhorn Creek and Miradoro Restaurant!

Second last report of this seemingly never-ending blog on our trip to the Okanagan in the summer. Our last two days of the trip saw us staying at the Tinhorn Creek Guest House. As you can tell, we didn't have any fun at all.

Now on to the wine!

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Pinot Gris ($16.99)

Strong aromas of pear, peach and pineapple. The palate features some citrus acidity with hints of apricot, guava and even a bit of banana. Nice minerality as well. Nobody does Pinot Gris better. 90.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Oldfield Series Rosé ($19.99)

100% Cabernet Franc

Aromas of red berries, red apple and orange. Strawberries dominate the palate with just a touch of citrus mingling in. Juicy and delicious. A top notch Rosé. 91

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Gewurztraminer ($14.99)

Hints of lychee, papaya and orange blossom. The palate is rich and viscous, with notes of lemon, cinnamon and ginger. Delicious. At this price, get a case. 90.

Tinhorn Creek 2013 2Bench White ($19.99)

Hints of pear, stone fruit and white flowers. Apples and citrus combine on the juicy palate. This one is excellent now but it built to age and improve for a few years. 90.

Tinhorn Creek 2011 Pinot Noir ($19.49)

Black cherry and mushroom aromas haunt the nose. Cherries continue through on the palate with some earthiness. Finishes long. 90.

Tinhorn Creek 2012 Pinot Noir ($19.49)

Cherries and dried herbs on the nose. Fruit and spice combine on the mid-palate. Lovely finish and balanced acidity. 89.

Tinhorn Creek 2011 Oldfield Series Pinot Noir ($30.49)

Cherries and vanilla, with a hint of cranberry and herb on the nose. Beautiful flavors of cherry, orange, cigar box and herbs. 91.

Tinhorn Creek 2011 Oldfield Series Merlot ($26.49)

Raspberry, dark chocolate and vanilla on the nose. Berries, vanilla and chocolate mix beautifully on the palate. Finishes long. Ready to drink now but will only improve with a bit of patience. 90.

Tinhorn Creek 2011 2Bench Red ($26.49)

Black cherry, blackberry and a hint of pepper on the nose. Complex palate featuring cassis, vanilla, plum, tobacco, coffee and the kitchen sink. Finishes with just a touch of spice. Enjoy now or wait for it to improve for around a decade. 91-93.

As if that wasn't enough great wine, we were off to Miradoro for a terrific dinner where we picked this one from the deep, dark recesses of their cellar:

Tinhorn Creek 1998 Pinot Noir ($50.00)

I would say this has just peaked. Lots of fruit left. Berries, cola and a bit of spice on the nose and following through on the palate. Some forest floor and tobacco as well. What a treat. 92.

As always, a fantastic experience at one of BC's top wineries and winery restaurants.

Next up: The last post, the Main Event of this trip, the Nota Bene Release Party at Black Hills!