Sunday, May 29, 2016

Okanagan Trip continues; The Fool on the Hill (side)

The titular phrase of this blog put me in mind of just how amazing the Beatles really are. The Fool on the Hill is one of their underrated masterpieces.

In 2014, during the Grammy special "The Night that Changed America", The Eurythmics reunited to sing the song in tribute. It is, IMO, the greatest Beatles cover of all time. It might even be better than the original and I don't say that lightly. For those of you who didn't see it, I highly recommend taking a couple of minutes before we get to the wine to check it out.

The Beatles. I mean, if you were to take on the impossible task of creating a list of the 100 best songs of all time, how many would be from them? 20? 25? It's inconceivable to think that perhaps 1/4 of the greatest songs ever written could come from the same band. Unreal.

OK so on to the wine. Hillside winery, another one of those wineries that features a very well-regarding bistro. We weren't eating here today but next time we will check it out.

Tasting fee of $5, waived with purchase.

Hillside 2013 Reserve Viognier ($20.86)

Aromas of honeysuckle and white flowers with a touch of spice. Citrus and honeysuckle dominate the palate. 86.

Hillside 2014 Gewurztraminer ($19.12)

Red grapefruit and passion fruit on the nose and palate. Ginger, kiwi and tropical fruit notes join in on the finish. 87.

Hillside 2011 Pinot Noir ($21.73)

Aromas and flavors of raspberry, strawberry and a touch of pepper. Silky smooth mouthfeel. 87.

Hillside 2010 Cabernet Franc ($21.73)

Cranberries, violets and a touch of tobacco on the nose. Black cherry and floral flavors envelope the palate. Light-medium bodied and quite tasty. 89.

Hillside 2011 Mosaic ($34.97)

66% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot

Aromas of cocoa, mint and blackberry alert the palate to what is to come. Black fruits with a hint of vanilla, earth and herbs. 89.

Hillside 2015 Rose ($19.12)

Pleasant aromas of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. Red cherries and strawberry mingle around during the long pleasing finish. 89.

Hillside 2014 Gamay Noir Icewine ($56.51)

Intense and beautiful nose of wild strawberries. The palate continues with strawberry and peach jam. If you like sweet dessert wine, you will certainly enjoy this one. 91.

Lots of good wine here and we left with a Cab Franc and a Rose. Looking forward to eating at the Bistro on a future trip.

Next up: Another winery I wasn't too familiar with (notice a pattern??); Ruby Blues!!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Okanagan Wine Trip continues and watch out for those damn spiders

I really hate spiders.

Except for this one.

Actually now that I think of it, this one isn't so bad either. Meow.

We arrive at a lovely tasting room which doubles as their barrel room. It's a quaint little winery, basically a two-man operation run by the owner and winemaker and his lovely daughter who was the one taking us through our tasting. For such a small operation, they certainly know how to make wine.

I've heard good things about this winery from friends who have visited but my personal knowledge of their product was just about zero. OK not "just about", it WAS zero. So let's get to it:

Black Widow 2015 Pinot Gris ($21.00)

Fresh notes of pear and apple on the nose and the palate. Bottled only a couple months ago, this would benefit from a little time in the bottle but it's drinkable now as well. 87.

Black Widow 2014 Gewurztraminer ($22.00)

Pleasant aromas of pineapple and lychee give way to flavors of grapefruit and tropical fruit. Very dry, and if that is your style of G, this is for you. 86.

Black Widow 2014 Oasis ($22.00)

40% Pinot Gris, 35% Gewurztraminer, 25% Schoenburger

Aromatic and delicous blend featuring balanced acidity, aromas and flavors of tropical fruits. Very nice patio sipper. 89.

Black Widow 2015 Schonburger ($27.00)

Well known in Germany this is almost impossible to find in a single varietal in the Okanagan. If this is any indication, it shouldn't be. Powerful aromas of apricot and honeysuckle. Enticing flavors of tropical fruit finishing with a touch of pineapple. What a pleasant treat. 90.

2015 Muscat Ottonel ($25.00)

Pleasant notes of white flowers dominate the nose. Traditional Muscat flavors including guava and a touch off-dry. 86.

2015 Rose ($23.00)

Rhubarb, strawberry and raspberry notes on the nose and palate. Just a touch of spice at the end. Juicy and really tasty. 89.

2015 Spiderling Red ($25.00)

Named for junior spiders and meant for early consumption. A juicy Merlot with intense fruit flavors and a full rich mouthfeel. As an everyday pleasing red, this is tough to beat. 89.

2014 Phobia ($27.00)

50/50 blend of Syrah and Merlot. 17 months in French oak, completely different profile than the above. Aromas of blackberry, vanilla and black pepper. Juicy and rich, medium to full-bodied. 89.

2013 Red Back ($32.00)

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 20% Merlot

Toasty oak, coffee and mocha aromas. Full-bodied and dry with flavors of licorice, blackberry and dark chocolate. Potential to age nicely. 89.

2013 Vintage One Fortified ($23.00)

Apricots and black plums on the nose, with agreeable flavors of black cherry, blackberry and caramel. One of my all-time favorite Port-style wines. 90.

2014 Mirage Fortified ($18.00)

A fortified after-dinner white wine? Really? Really. Fortifed with grape brandy and barrel aged for 2 years. Just one barrel of production and it's really quite impressive. Aromas and flavors of apricot and honeysuckle. We picked up one of these and are looking forward to cracking it open after our next dinner party. 90.

I guess I can add one more spider, Black Widow winery, to my list of spiders that don't scare the bejeezus out of me. We were so impressed that our wine-loving friend joined their wine club - her first. Highly recommend checking them out when you are in the area.

Just goes to show you that trying out new wineries can certainly pay off!

Next up: Hillside!

Okanagan Wine Trip continues, and someone is getting a Misconduct penalty.....

...and it's our friend who recommended this place to us!

I know I promised that my next entry would involve our terrific tasting and lunch at Liquidity but my notes on that tasting were on a separate piece of paper which I have misplaced. I'm sure I'll find it and we'll go back to it later, but for now, let's go on. After lunch we headed back to the Penticton/Naramata area and stopped at a little winery called Misconduct Wine Co. I was totally unfamiliar with them but our friend had enjoyed some of their stuff in the past and it never hurts to give a little guy a try.


Tasting room was nice and big and the lady behind the counter was friendly. No tasting fee.

Misconduct 2014 Misfit ($20.50)

Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurztraminer. Three excellent grapes that go well together, and normally you can put a bit of Muscat in anything and it makes it better. This features nice aromas of honeydew and pineapple, with honeydew and white peaches on the palate. 86.

Misconduct 2014 Riesling ($19.50)

Light aromas of nectarine and slate. Palate features apple, pear and a touch of minerality. 85.

Misconduct 2013 Big Take ($27.50)

48% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot

Notes of plum and black pepper. Cold cuts, blackberry and cassis on the palate. 86.

Misconduct 2013 Pinot Noir ($38.00)

Aromas of black cherry, tobacco and cranberry. Finishes with just a touch of earthiness and mushroom. Would probably improve with a lot of aging but not particularly approachable now. 85.

Misconduct 2013 Inverno ($48.00)

Riesling, Viognier and Muscat blend in a pleasant dessert wine. Aromas of orange marmalade and marshmallow. A hint of lemon joins some honey and pear flavors. Lovely. 89.

Yes I know, qu'elle surprise that my favorite wine was the dessert wine. Total shocker.

Next up: up the road to another winery I was quite unfamiliar with, Black Widow!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Okanagan Trip Part II: Not the first time I've been a Laughing Stock, and probably not the last.....

We are warmly greeted for our private sit-down tasting which costs $10 per person, refundable on deposit. This is a wonderful way to taste wine, something I wish all wineries would offer (yes, I know, it's hardly practical for the bigger guys). The personalized service just makes it even more special, and when the wine is good too, what a great experience.

This winery has a really interesting story. Rather than tell you about it myself, I'll just post a link to it here. Check it out.

Laughing Stock 2014 Blind Trust White ($21.99)

50% Pinot Gris, 20% Viognier, 18% Pinot Blanc, and 12% Roussanne

You wouldn't ever know the varietals in this wine, let alone the percentage breakdown, from looking at the label. "Blind trust" is just that, you have to actually peel back the capsule to find out what's inside. (They also make a Blind Trust Red)

Lovely aromas of violets greet the nose, leading to hints of lime and grapefruit. Juicy and well balanced flavors of lime and peach and just a touch of minerality. 88.

That's me in the background, soaking up the sun, with our dear friend Melissa (otherwise known as Second Wife, but not in quite the same way that the Chinese used to have multiple wives back in the old days. That reminds me I'm due for another viewing of the Joy Luck Club). The wine is on a table just to my right; I suppose we should have taken pictures of THAT too :)

Laughing Stock 2014 Viognier ($22.99)

Intriguing notes of white flowers and orange blossoms greet your nose. The white flowers continue onto the palate, effortlessly joined by honey and cloves. A top-notch example of BC Viognier. 90.

Laughing Stock 2013 Syrah ($33.99)

Inspired by the French, 4% Viognier has been added. Strong notes of black pepper are the first thing your nose might notice, slowly supplemented by some earthiness and herbaceous notes. Juicy blackberry flavors mingle with some earth and pepper during the very long finish. Beautiful now and some careful cellaring will really provide a treat. 92.

Laughing Stock 2013 Portfolio ($39.99)

Their flagship Bordeaux-style blend.  

41% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot.

Inviting aromas of black cherry, vanilla, toasty oak, spice and blackberry. Black fruits abound on the palate, with hints of dark chocolate, vanilla and spice. Finishes very long. Drinking well now but recommended to age for up to another decade, if you can manage to wait that long. We put one away and I'll report on it when it's time. 92-94.

This was a winery I was only somewhat familiar with and we very much enjoyed the tasting and the wine. We ended up leaving with a few bottles and we will definitely be back!

Next up: we leave Naramata for a quick jaunt into Okanagan Falls for a tasting and lunch at Liquidity!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Okanagan Trip, Part 1: Poplar Grove is our first stop

A couple weeks ago we were up in Naramata to celebrate the birthday of a very good friend; it was our first trip up to the wineries in Naramata (we had visited a few in Penticton on our last trip) so we were very excited to try out some of the wines we were somewhat familiar with and some we had never experienced.

Up early in the morning and off to Poplar Grove, a well-regarded winery that we had tasted some wine from before but not that much. Here we go:

Poplar Grove 2015 Pinot Gris ($19.90)

Beautiful nose of apricot and guava. Sweet red apple and pear dominate the palate. Well balanced acidity. A real gem. 90.

Poplar Grove 2015 Chardonnay ($21.90)

Walnuts, vanilla and lemongrass on the nose and palate. A touch of hazelnut and creme brulee join in on the palate. Finishes long and lovely. 89.

Poplar Grove 2014 Viognier ($24.90)

Aromas of honeysuckle, passion fruit and orange blossom. Flavors of pear and orange and really plump acidity. 88.

Poplar Grove 2015 Blanc de Noirs ($24.90)

Pretty nose featuring grapefruit, rhubarb and strawberry. The fruit continues through to the palate with just a slight bit of spice joining in. 88.

Poplar Grove 2012 Syrah ($34.90)

Aromas of allspice, cranberry and a bit of white pepper. Strong flavor of black cherry dominate the palate, with some blackberry, cinnamon and white pepper coming through at the back. Full-bodied and lots of potential. 88.

Poplar Grove 2011 Malbec ($34.90)

Violets, blueberry and blackberry on the nose. Inviting flavors of prune and cherries, with some toasty oak and cedar as well. 87.

Poplar Grove 2012 CSM ($34.90)

51% Merlot, 41% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon

Aromas of black currant, black cherry, violets and white pepper. Complex and intense flavors of raspberry, plum, pepper and tobacco. 89.

Poplar Grove 2012 Merlot ($29.90)

Licorice, caramel, black cherry and cola on the nose. Long and beautiful finish with hints of cocoa, licorice and cherry. Rich mouthfeel. 88.

Poplar Grove 2011 Legacy ($112.32**)

43% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc, 13% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Strong aromas of vanilla, coffee and cloves. The palate is greeted by red currants, blackberry, plum and vanilla. 89.

**1.5L Magnum, available only from the wineshop

Poplar Grove 2014 Late Harvest Riesling/Chardonnay ($19.90)

Aromas of maple, honey and butterscotch. Complex flavors of orange rind, white flowers and peach. Lovely and if you are a fan of dessert wines that aren't crazy-sweet, you'll really enjoy this. 89.

That was all we were able to taste that day, but while we were there, the lady helping us out recommended the following wine, exclusive to their wine club and very, very limited. We picked up a couple of them and have since opened and tasted it:

Poplar Grove 2012 Cabernet Franc ($34.90)

Beautiful aromas of plum, cedar and tobacco. A spectacularly complex palate, flavors of cedar, blackberry, tobacco, herbs, green pepper and black cherry. Finishes long and luscious. One of our absolute favorites of this varietal from BC. Really, really special. 93.

We happened to be at Everything Wine in Surrey last weekend and they had some more of this beauty, so we picked up a couple more. We have put one of them into our cellar to age a bit but sometimes a wine is so damn good it doesn't even need to age. We'll see if we let it get there or not!

What a terrific way to start our weekend, not a bad wine in the bunch and we've found a real gem in the Cab Franc.

Next up: up the road to a private tasting at Laughing Stock!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wine, wine, wine, wine and more wine

Trying to catch up from all the wine we enjoyed on our recent 3 week Florida trip/Caribbean cruise. Here is a report on a wide range of stuff we had during the cruise; some of it stuff we bought and took on the ship ourselves, and a lot of it was enjoyed during our several trips at the wine bar.

Prices listed are estimates and are converted to CAD unless otherwise indicated.

Starting with the first Chardonnay I've ever had from Argentina:

Navarro Correas 2014 Privado Chardonnay ($24.00)

Light, fruity aromas of citrus and wheat. White flowers and apples on the palate. Very high acidity. 86.

Arboleda 2013 Carmenere ($17.95)

Herbal and dusty aromas, also some plum and black fruit. Balanced acidity, would pair well with big meat dishes. Smooth and supple. 87.

And my first every wine from Uruguay. I didn't know they made wine in Uruguay.

Don Pascual Juanico 2013 Tannat ($14.85)

Aromas of black currant. Palate features some bitter cherry, black currant and a touch of spice. I hope Uruguay makes better wine than this. 83.

All of those wines were tasted in wine flights; now let's get to some actual bottles that we tried:

Spellbound 2013 Petite Sirah ($50 USD at wine bar)

Intense black colour. Fresh, fruity and jammy nose. Cassis, blueberry and blackberry on the palate. Rich mouthfeel. This is from the Michael Mondavi family of wine. Nice. 89.

Michael Mondavi 2011 M Cabernet Sauvignon ($200USD at wine bar)

Interesting nose reminiscent of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Flavors of raspberry, tobacco, blueberry and sweet oak. Tannins are firm and sharp, suggesting this would really improve with some more bottle aging. It's perfect good but if I'm spending $200 on a bottle of wine to drink now, I can find better. 90.

CVNE 2008 Gran Reserva Rioja ($84 USD from wine bar)

Aromas of licorice, earth, raspberry and spice. This is a wine with serious character and complexity. Black fruits, tobacco, forest floor and a touch of pepper on the palate. Finishes long and smooth. A superb effort. 93.

This is one of the wines we picked up at Costco. Critics have called the 2010 vintage from Brunello di Montalcino "the vintage of the century". Let's see.

Banfi 2010 Brunello di Montalcino ($60 USD at Costco)

Light dusty aromas with notes of cherry cola. Flavors of dark cherry, tobacco and cola. Rich and full mouthfeel.

This was decanted for about an hour. Very smooth and paired well with Chicken Parmigiana and Prime Rib. Only time will tell how good this will be with more time to age. It doesn't need to get much better. 95-???

The Hogue Cellars 2013 Columbia Valley Gewurztraminer ($40 USD at wine bar) 

Lychee, honeysuckle and pear on the nose. Lemon lime, papaya and spice on the palate. This has an incredible nose but papaya is the dominate flavor and that's not generally my favorite. 87.

Lots more updates to come but I think this at least gets the cruise portion of the vacation last. Feels like the cruise was 3 years ago!