Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Catch-up entry featuring some spectacular stuff from Washington State, some beauty Rosés from Provence, and of course, BC too......

BREAKING NEWS!!! Brad and Angelina are NOT getting divorced.

Thank goodness, hope those crazy kids can work it out. If not, what happens to their wine???

Miraval 2016 Rosé ($28.99 in BC Liquor Store)

Delicate spring floral aromas with just a touch of spice. Blood orange, red grapefruit, meyer lemon and a touch of grapefruit on the palate. The 2012 version of this is still (I believe) the only rosé to make Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of the year list. I was concerned that perhaps this wine just got notoriety because of it's famous parents, but it really is tasty. 91.

But we weren't finished with Provence...

Chateau St. Marguerite 2016 Symphony Rosé ($26.99 USD from

Beautiful, arresting aromas of red roses, orange blossom, white flowers and passion fruit. Complex flavors include peach, nectarine, orange rind, lime zest. Texture is light and full at the same time. Absolutely superb. If not my all time favorite rosé, it's pretty darn close. 93.

Chateau d'Esclans - 2015 Rock Angel Rosé ($31.99 USD at Total Wine)

Herbaceous aromas compliment the red currant and strawberry fruit. Light and fruity, notes of orange rind, red fruit, herbs and intense minerality. Full textured and medium bodied. Lovely. 91.

Now onto some "non-Provence" wine.....but we'll stay in France for one more bottle:

Gustave Lorentz 2015 Reserve Gewurztraminer ($32.95 from Legacy Wines)

Aromas of lychee, peach, rose water, apricot, honeysuckle and just a touch of white pepper lurking in the background. Rich and full mouthfeel, with flavors of elderflower, pineapple and lychee. Nice. 89.

To Canada we go!!!

Quails' Gate 2012 Chardonnay ($22.99 from winery)

50% barrel fermented, 50% tank fermented

Aromas of hazelnut, white flowers, red apple and butterscotch. Apple and peach on the palate, with a blast of caramel coming through on the finish. Drinking beautifully now. 90.

Volcanic Hills 2012 Merlot ($25.00 from winery)

Blackberry, forest floor, cassis, red plum and black tea on the nose. Black cherry, blueberry and earthiness on the palate. Medium finish. Tasty. 89.

Moon Curser 2012 Petit Verdot ($32.00 from winery or VQA stores)

Aromas of violets, mint, coffee, blueberry and smoke. Perhaps even just a touch of tar. Palate is a bit hot; mushroom and forest floor dominate the rustic palate. 88.

Le Vieux Pin 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99 from winery, private wine shops)

Light aromas of hay, gooseberry, and Meyer lemon. Red apple, orchard fruit, guava and tart grapefruit on the palate. Finishes with a strong backbone of minerality. Not an easy grape to grow successfully in the Okanagan, and this one is well done. 89.

Couple random ones to finish up!

Faustino 2004 Gran Reserva ($34.95 from private liquor stores)

This Rioja beauty features all the scents you would expect from a 13 year old wine, forest floor, mushroom, tobacco, but also a lot of licorice, blackberry, plum and cherry. Medium bodied and impressive. This wine is mass produced (around a half million bottles are prepared) and it is amazing that the quality is this high. It's terrific. 92.

And, we'll finish up with the gem of this report:

Col Solare 2007 Col Solare ($75.00 USD from

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc

Oh my. Cherry, raspberry, cassis, nutmeg, mint, smoke and cigar box assault your olfactory senses. Incredibly expressive. Black plum, raspberry and cherry flavors frame the palate, which picks up leather, cedar and cigar box. Finishes long. Really hitting it's peak now, this is just delicious. 94.

Well, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I am now 100% caught up on all my random notes. That doesn't mean I'm finished, though, as another Okanagan trip report begins next. It's a short one, but it features lots of good stuff and an incredible event that you'll have to see to believe.

Until next time!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Let's just talk about California wine, including some world-class Zinfandel, the best I've ever had

It is impossible to write a wine blog, or just enjoy wine, without being aware of the devastation that has occurred in the Napa/Sonoma wine region the past couple of weeks. With several wineries completely destroyed, and more than two dozen wineries damaged or destroyed, (here is an updated list), the destruction has been unparalleled.

We are members of four California wine clubs. Three in Napa (Robert Mondavi, Turnbull Cellars, Joseph Phelps) and one in Sonoma (Hartford Family Winery). We know that all four of them have escaped any significant damage to their wineries and most of their vineyards. Turnbull has suggested there may be some damage to their Amoenus Vineyards near Calistoga. As the fires still burn, we know that we have not yet heard the final tally of the damage, but it seems as if most wineries and vineyards miraculously escaped total loss. For a region that relies on wine as their most significant source of revenue, the news is generally positive. Pretty extraordinary when you think about it.

One of the wineries that did NOT survive, Signorello Estates Winery, has already vowed to rebuild. Good for them.

As of this writing, I'm told that 95% of businesses in the affected counties are open. I've received Emails from all my wineries sending the same message: please help us.

From Robert Mondavi:

We are happy to announce that we are open and want to welcome you back! While our beautiful valley may not look the same as the last time you visited, you will be greeted with an even stronger sense of hospitality as we all come together to support our friends and neighbors. During the month of October, all locals and first responders are invited to join us at Robert Mondavi Winery for a free wine tasting.

Between now and the end of October, we are proud to donate 10% of our tasting room and online wines sales to the Napa Valley Community Fund.

Many of you have asked how you can help. Here are some options:

Give back! Here is the Charity we recommend: Napa Valley Community Fund

Come see us! Plan a visit to wine country and help support our community by staying at our beautiful hotels, visiting our neighbors, and enjoying delicious meals at our world-class restaurants.

Buy Napa and Sonoma Wines! And keep buying them from all your favorite Napa and Sonoma wineries, online, in stores and in restaurants. Share them with friends & family...this is one of the best ways you'll help us rebuild our beautiful wine country! 

 So I am dedicating this blog post to bringing as much attention to California wine as I can. I had promised a huge catch up entry of some wine that we've enjoyed while I've been writing my Okanagan trip reports; this is that, focusing just on California wine. I'll have another entry with everything else later this weekend. And it would be remiss of me to not give a nod to the incredible first responders who's tireless work undoubtedly saved many lives, many wineries, and many acres of grapes.

Let's get to it!

First let's start with an oldie but a goodie; our dear friends held a Graduation party for their two daughters a couple of months ago, and one of them (a budding oenophile) just happened to be born in 1994. The day after we knew the confirmed date of the party - THE DAY AFTER - I get an Email from advertising this:

Silver Oak 1994 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($84.99 USD)

Intense, brooding, provocative nose of leather, tobacco, clove, black cherry and spice. Given the age, there is a stunning amount of fruit left, sweet raspberry, toasty oak and black cherry mingling with the earthy and tobacco flavors you would expect from a 23-year old wine. Delicious and probably has another 5-7 years left in it. 93.

I wish *I* was able to taste a wine that was made the year I was born. But I am just too f*****g old :)

Hartford Family Winery 2010 Fog Dance Chardonnay ($65 USD direct from winery)

Arresting nose featuring caramel, baked apple, citrus and nutmeg. Bold with bright, vibrant acidity. Flavors of butterscotch, baking spice and a very long, persistent finish. When you open up a Hartford Chardonnay you know you are going to get a very good wine, a great wine, or a life-changing wine. There are no other options. 93.

Robert Mondavi 2013 Carneros Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc ($65 USD direct from winery)

63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Cabernet Franc

Complex and intense aromas of mint, pencil lead, black licorice, black raspberry, plum and tobacco leaf. Blackberry starts it off, leading to a juicy mid-palate featuring black licorice and cassis. Rich and luscious mouthfeel, the only thing keeping this from true greatness is a medium finish. Even so, it's terrific. 92.

Miner Family 2010 La Diligence Syrah ($32.99 USD from

We tasted the '09 vintage of this on our trip to Napa a few years back, and loved it so much that when we found it here in a Liberty Wines store, we went and bought them all. I was beyond excited when I happened across this new vintage on

Unfortunately, it's nothing like the '09. Sourced 100% from the well-known Stagecoach Vineyard. Aromas of black and green olives, leather and blackberry give way to flavors of black cherry and forest floor. The finish is weak and unimpressive. It's not a bad wine, but given our love of the '09, a disappointment. 88.

Robert Mondavi 2014 Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Fumé Blanc ($52.00 USD direct from winery)

Beautiful asian pear, peach, pineapple, thyme and slight perfume aromas. Tropical fruit, white plum and thyme flavors. Impressive minerality and a full, rich mouthfeel. Delicious. 92.

Hartford Family Winery 2012 Outer Limits Syrah ($55 USD direct from winery)

We've been big fans of this winery for years and I had no idea they even made a Syrah. Sourced from a vineyard just four miles from the Pacific Ocean, this beauty features brambly black fruit, forest floor, blueberry, charred meat, lilacs and vanilla on the nose. Dark chocolate, black plum, blackberry, cassis, blueberry, leather and a touch of black pepper on the palate. Just delicious. 93.

Hartford Family Winery 2014 Warrior Princess Pinot Noir ($70 USD direct from winery)

California winery, but the fruit is sourced from the famous Zena Crown Vineyard in the Eola-Amity sub-appellation in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Aged for 16 months in 100% French Oak, 32% new. Aromas of black cherry, cedar and dried rose petals. Red cherry, blackberry, blueberry, nutmeg and juniper berries on the palate. Terrific. 92.

And, last but certainly not least........

Hartford Family Winery 2014 Highwire Vineyard Zinfandel ($60 USD direct from winery)

From a 100+-year-old-vineyard in the Russian River Valley, and aged in 100% French Oak (45% new) for 10 months. Deep and impressive aromas of licorice, blackberry, white pepper and black cherry. Black fruit dances on your palate, joined by some rich, luscious dark chocolate. The finish goes on longer than Pinocchio's nose in that Geico commercial. I honestly can't imagine that Zinfandel gets much better than this. I hope I get to find one even better one day. It won't be easy. 96.

That's it for today, please dear readers, if you are going to open up a bottle of wine tonight, or hit your local liquor store to pick up a bottle or bottles, make it something from California. They need us.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Okanagan trip reports becomes legal (in Alberta anyway), report 18 at Beaumont Family Estate Winery!

Our first visit to this little boutique winery that has something I haven't seen at any other wineries: Musical instruments. Yes, just sitting there, for you to play if you have the desire and ability.

Oh, and they also sell some of the best jam I've ever had.

They had several different flavors, and I could've bought them all, but we stuck to these two. Delicious. Put those bad boys on some crackers and let your taste buds thank you.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2015 Pinot Gris ($19.90)

Intense aromas of lemongrass, with passion fruit and lemon-lime lurking in the background. Definitely a food wine, with flavors of citrus dominating the tart palate. 88.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2014 Gewurztraminer ($17.90)

Aromas of sweet white flowers, lychee and tropical fruit. The aromas follow through to the palate, followed by a spicy finish. 89.

This was so tasty we bought two and enjoyed one the same night in our hotel room with some Thai food. Unfortunately the second one, which we opened up at Thanksgiving last weekend, was bad and went down the sink.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2015 Trio ($19.90)

50% Pinot Blanc, 25% Pinot Gris, 25% Gewurztraminer

Like fruit salad in a bottle. Guava, mango and stone fruit aromas give way to tropical fruit, pineapple, mango and peach flavors. Great patio sipper. 88.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé ($18.90)

Strawberry dominates the nose, with a touch of cranberry and pomegranate poking up at the end. The palate is round and juicy, with watermelon candy, cherry, cranberry and wild strawberry. A hint of spice on the finish. If you are a bigger fan of watermelon and cranberry than I am, you are likely to love this. 87.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2014 Gamay Noir ($22.90)

Intense blackberry and black pepper on the nose. Red berries, oak and black pepper on the palate. Gamay is never my very favorite varietal but this is perfectly tasty. 88.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2014 Pinot Noir ($26.00)

Juicy red cherry and black cherry mingle on the nose. Red cherry, cassis, cedar and violet flavors. Light-bodied. 88.

Beaumont Family Estate Winery 2013 Pinot Noir Icewine ($30/200 ml or $50/375 ml)

You don't see Pinot Noir icewine everyday! Blackberry, red cherry, cassis and a hint of spice on the nose. Sweet red cherry and vanilla on the palate. Tasty. 92.

Not a bad wine in the bunch and lots of potential for growth here. We will definitely visit again!

That is IT for this Okanagan trip report, but we've come and gone on ANOTHER Okanagan trip, albeit a short one, and I will start reporting on that soon. First, however, a lot of other great wine has been enjoyed in the meantime, and I'll do a big catch-up entry or two on some random stuff.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Keep those Wagons Rolling, and keep the Wine a-Pourin'.....Rollingdale!!!!

The 17th entry in this Okanagan trip is the penultimate one, as we re-visit a winery we thought was just OK last time. Things have changed very much.

First, they have added some extra tasting bars in the tasting room (which doubles as their barrel room), alleviating the previous problem of feeling cramped while tasting. Secondly, the wines have improved quite a bit, and they had a lot more to taste.

Prices are pre-tax.

Rollingdale 2016 Estate Organic Pinot Blanc ($24.26)

Aromas of pear and tropical fruit, leading to pleasing flavors of citrus and pear. One of my favorite of this varietal. Very nice. 90.

Rollingdale 2016 Estate Organic Pinot Gris ($21.65)

Orchard fruit mingles with strong aromas of anise and pear. Pear flavors are dominating, in your face. Not for the faint of heart, but very tasty especially if you enjoy pear. 89.

Rollingdale 2015 Pinot Gris ($15.56)

10% Semillon

With 22g of residual sugar, this is sweeter than the above but certainly not "sweet". Pear and honeysuckle aromas. Pear, peach cobbler and toffee on the palate, which actually finishes a touch tart. 86. 

Rollingdale 2014 Paint the Town ($17.30)

A bizarre blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Marechal Foch, with strong violet notes on the nose, followed closely by raspberry and cherry. Tannins are soft and supple and this is ready to go, take these blackberry flavors, give it a chill, pair with some light pasta and go. 87.

Rollingdale 2014 8 Barrels Merlot ($39.91)

Aged 26 months in new French Oak barriques, this is so-named because it was their favorite 8 barrels. Violets, cigar box, forest floor and smoke on the nose. Earthy, chewy, funky with forest floor and a dark chocolate finish. Very tasty. 90.

Rollingdale 2015 Organic Estate Merlot ($44.99)

Complex nose that brings you vanilla, violets, blueberry, blackberry and cherry. Berries are dominate on the palate, but look hard enough and you'll get some dark chocolate and vanilla on the finish. Tannins are firm and this one needs some more time to grow, but it's going to be delicious. 91-93.

Rollingdale 2015 Organic Estate Marechal Foch ($24.26)

Really intense floral notes leap from the glass, closely followed by intense notes of blueberry. It runs a bit hot at 14.5% alcohol but tannins are almost non-existent, so if this is your thing, pair it with a big, rich pasta or even something spicy. 86.

Rollingdale 2016 Fort ($52.09)

Big, bold Port-style wine made from Marechal Foch. The nose starts off almost strictly alcohol, but that dissipates quickly. The rich alcohol continues on the palate but let it sit for a second and some tasty flavors of black cherry and toffee show up. Perfect for a nice by the fire. 89.

Rollingdale 2013 Merlot Icewine ($43.39)

The nose is almost as strong as the above, featuring decadent aromas of raisin, strawberry, toffee and caramel. Toffee, plum and caramel flavors. Probably my all-time favorite Merlot icewine. Delicious. 94.

Rollingdale 2013 Organic Pinot Gris Icewine ($43.39)

Red apple, pineapple, honeysuckle and lemon-lime on the nose. Creamy flavors of honey, pineapple and butterscotch. Very nice. 93.

Rollingdale 2013 Organic Chardonnay Icewine ($60.78)

Aromas of pineapple and honey, flavors of grapefruit, honey and lemon meringue pie. Creamy and beautiful. 93.

Excellent experience here, and we will definitely return!

Next up: The final report of this Okanagan trip, our first visit to another fairly new winery, Beaumont Family Winery!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Okanagan Trip Report turns Sweet 16 at Indigenous World Winery!!

Our first visit here, and we immediately noticed how much care had been given to make the front of the tasting room interesting and inviting.

They also feature a nice little bistro that we probably would have eaten in had we not already had lunch. Our tasting room guide was a lady I recognized, as she also has worked at Cedarcreek, where we have been many times. Oh, and their winemaker is Jason Parkes, who also makes the wine for The Hatch, among others.

Let's get to the wine!

Indigenous World 2016 Ehrenfelser ($17.99)

Lightly aromatic nose of tropical fruit and apple. Slightly off-dry, with flavors of papaya, apple, banana and honeysuckle. 88.

Indigenous World 2016 Hee-Hee-Tel-Kin White ($14.99)

50% Gewurztraminer, 30% Ehrenfelser, 10% Chardonnay, 10% Muscat

Grapefruit and citrus on the nose. Flavors of elderflower, ripe stone fruit and lychee. A nice bargain and perfect patio sipper. 88.

Indigenous World 2016 Estate Muscat ($19.99)

Citrus and tropical fruit dominate the nose. Flavors of tropical fruit, particularly banana, with a touch of spice on the finish. 86.

Indigenous World 2016 Viognier ($21.99)

Made with fruit sourced from the Simalkameen Valley, the nose is highly aromatic with stone fruit and a touch of citrus fruit. Citrus, pear and peach on the palate. Acidity is high, definitely a food wine. Try it with shellfish. 86.

Indigenous World 2015 Chardonnay ($29.99)

Aged 10 months in it's lees in 40% new French oak and 60% 2nd fill American oak. Meant to be big and buttery in the Napa style, having gone through maloactic fermentation, the nose was a bit weak with aromas of hazelnut and just a slight inkling of butterscotch. The palate was similar, with tropical fruit and a touch of vanilla on the palate. Finishes very short. Perhaps it just needs further aging, but it was a tad underwhelming. 86.

That was it for the whites, and they had just recently sold out of the previous vintage of all their reds. They were tasting a few new reds, but warned us against bottle shock as they had only been in the bottles for THREE WEEKS!

Indigenous World 2015 Hee-Hee-Tel-Kin Red ($21.99)

79% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc

Aromas of mocha, vanilla and forest floor. Chocolate and vanilla flavors with some nice earthy qualities. Didn't seem to be suffering from bottle shock, feels like a good everyday red. In fact, we picked one up. 88.

They also poured us a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that both seemed to be badly suffering from bottle shock. The Cab Sauv was intriguing enough that we bought one and put it into our cellar. We didn't like the Cab Franc at all, but it deserves another taste next time.

As we waiting in line at the cashier to pay for our wine, we noticed there were three people in line in front of us and ALL OF THEM were buying their rosé, which we didn't get to taste. They all RAVED about it, so we figured we'd pick one up and we opened it up at a pool party during the summer.

Indigenous World 2016 Red Fox Rosé ($16.99)

This must be the only winery that calls a rosé their "signature wine". Made from 100% Pinot Noir, it features aromas of jasmine, strawberry, rose water and oranges. A touch of vanilla and a touch of spice joins in with a bunch of red fruit on the palate. The other guests were right, this was quite tasty. 88.

Tons of promise here, and I will report on the Cab Sauv when we open it in 2-3 years. With an excellent winemaker, I would suspect their wines will just get better and better.

Next up: To a winery we had visited just once before and were not that impressed with at the time. Things change, though, and (spoiler alert), this next blog post will illustrate why it's important to give everyone a second chance! It's up the street to Rollingdale Winery!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part Fifteen, at a winery featuring space, employees and bears, oh my!!!

Our first visit to Grizzli. If you've even been there, you've probably marveled at a couple of things. First, the enormity of it....not just the tasting room, but the parking lot. Whoever built this place thinks a lot of their wine, or at the very least, they think they'll be able to sell a lot of it.

Who built it? Well, the owners are currently being tried on smuggling charges in China.

Let's ignore whether the charges of under-valuing some imported icewine warrants criminal charges at's China. Guilty or not, you are guilty in China. This couple is going to need some serious help to ever get back to Canada. I wish them luck.

So, what does that mean for the winery? Too soon to tell, although the owner is also listed as the winemaker on the website; if that's accurate, they're going to need to find a replacement winemaker, and soon.

It's not too soon, however, to get a sense that this place was constructed for the wealthy Asian client. The wines are fairly pricey (wait until you see the price of some of the icewines), the tasting room is the size of a football field, there are more employees than customers, and at least 3 of the employees we encountered (including our tasting guide) were clearly natural Chinese speakers. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

Does the wine stand up to the scrutiny? Let's see.

Grizzli 2015 Muscat ($24.95)

Intense sweet floral aromas. Only 8.3% alcohol. Flavors of elderflower, mandarin, lime and pear. 87.

Grizzli 2014 Merlot ($36.95)

Intriguing aromas of black plum and powdered cocoa. Chocolate and vanilla dominate the palate. Finishes long. 90.

Grizzli 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($32.95)

Chocolate, baking spice, cedar and caramel notes on the nose. Black cherry joins in on the palate, framing chocolate and nutmeg flavors. 89.

Grizzli 2014 Meritage ($45.95)

Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot

Aromas of cherry, red licorice and leather. Red cherries abound on the palate, with a hint of baking spice, vanilla and mint on the finish. 88.

Grizzli 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Icewine ($42 (200 ml) $78 (375ml))

Apple and apricot on the nose, flavors of apple and citrus with a very long finish. Very tasty. 94.

Grizzli 2013 Gewurztraminer Icewine ($68.00 375ml)

Beautiful aromas of lychee, pineapple and ginger. Pineapple flavors please the tongue, joined by honeysuckle and ginger. Lovely finish. 94.

Grizzli 2013 Cabernet Franc Icewine ($92 375 ml)

Strawberry, toffee and raisin on the nose. Raspberry, golden raisin, and strawberry on the palate. The finish lingers. 92.

Grizzli 2013 Merlot Icewine ($115 375ml)

Sweet floral aromas, both white flowers and red roses. Raisins join in at the end. Strawberry and toffee flavors dominate. 92.

Not a bad wine in the bunch and the icewines were terrific, if perhaps a bit pricey for the average consumer. But as we discussed earlier, they aren't really marketed to the average consumer.

Next up: We make our first visit to Indigenous World Winery!