Archive for May, 2010

La Frenz Rules the White Wine World in BC

May 27, 2010

La Frenz winery in Naramata released their 2009 white wines this month, which prompted me to write this blog. Year in, year out, they continue to show they rule the white wine world in BC (and Canada!)

 I have been following this winery for about ten years now and it is amazingly consistent in producing fabulous wines that are also great values. This includes a couple of whites that are the best of their kind in Canada!

One is the Viognier, a usually fickle grape from the Rhone Valley that is used to make the incredibly fragrant — but extremely expensive — Condrieu ($50 +). La Frenz has this one nailed, with explosively floral/fruit cocktail aromas followed by a very ripe, fruity but bone dry finish. It is a ridiculous bargain at $22! Easily the best I have tried not only in Canada, but in North America.

 The same goes for their Small Lots Riesling. Made slightly off dry to keep the fruit and acidity, it is a dead ringer for a quality German wine, but at $19 is about half the price. And it can age for 5 years (although is so delicious I haven’t been able to wait that long!).

 At the risk of repeating myself, the same goes for their Small Lots Semillon. Made in a dry, crisp style with a touch of oak, it is a very similar to a dry white Graves from Bordeaux. And, once again, it is a great bargain at $20, with aging potential to boot. 

Last but not least in the white wine category is the Small Lots Sauvignon Blanc.  This is no “cat’s pee” SB; instead, a beautifully balanced, grassy/floral wine that is crisp, dry and delicious. And if you don’t believe me, well the 2009 just won gold at a major wine competition to boot.  All for $22!

The only downside is that, like all La Frenz wines, they are only available for purchase at the winery or by the case on-line. But if you find a few friends to join you (like I do in my wine club), you can enjoy what is truly the best in B.C.!


Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir – The Perfect Balance Between Burgundy and California

May 13, 2010

Happy days for me and my wine club, as we were able to get our yearly allotment of Blue Mountain’s Reserve Pinot Noir.  This is the 2007 vintage and they kept the price steady at $35.90 a bottle. And it remains very hard to get; only from the winery and usually just via the mailing list (it usually sells out within days or weeks of release).

This was the first truly great BC red wine I ever had and it nearly blew my mind at the time.  I was organizing a work function back in the late ’90s at a hotel in Victoria and looking for wine on the wine list to serve. I spotted this wine — then called the Striped Label — and decided on it so we could feature “BC food and wine” for the guests.  The vintage, I believe, was 1996.

As soon as I tried it, I did a double take. This was not the usual (at the time) light, insipid and woody BC Pinot. It literally exploded with cherry fruit, fully ripe, and nicely balanced with oak, big and lush; a truly great experience.  And it wasn’t just me who thought so.  A number of people came up to me and enquired about the wine that night, not believing it could be “made in BC”.

I have followed — and collected — the wine ever since. For me, it is a unique balance in style between California — which has very ripe, cherry/vanilla flavoured wines (that can sometimes get so ripe they almost taste like candy) — and Burgundy, which adds more earth, spice and even mushroom overtones to the wine (at three to four times the cost!).

It also ages surprisingly well in good vintages.  The 1998 improved for ten years, losing none of its fruit. In fact, this is a wine that actually seems to “put on weight” as it gets older (something that Pinot Noir only seems able to do). I personally think it starts to show its best stuff after it is five years old.

So kudos once again to the Mavetys in Okanagan Falls for their flagship wine. Year in, year out, it only has one competitor for best Pinot Noir in BC (which is the Hayman Vineyard Pinot Noir by Kettle Valley, but that is a subject for a future blog).


Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon – the King of the BC Cabs

May 10, 2010

I had the 2006 Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon on the weekend and — after also checking my notes on a bottle of the 2005 from a couple of months ago and previous vintages from years ago — am now ready to soundly declare that, in my opinion, it is the “King of the BC Cabs”!

I say that for a number of reasons.  First, year in, year out, it shows the best fruit to oak balance in the province.

Second, the blackcurrant/Cassis aromas and flavours are very, very pure…not jammy or covered up by vanilla. It actually reminds me of when I first tried Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley Cabs in the mid 1980s…very, very similar in style and quality.

Third, from a value point of view, it is hard to beat.  Even with a price increase last year to $24.99, there is only one other BC Cab that can compete with it (and that is La Frenz, which often comes close).  I think it would even do fine in blind tastings against some more expense California cousins.

Fourth, they make it in a big enough quantities that you can find some if you want it. Not in the government liquor stores (at least not yet, although the Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are there), but a quick trip to the Langley branch of the winery will usually result in a few bottles.

Fifth, it has enough structure to age for 4 – 5 years at least. And in doing so, it doesn’t dry out…the ripe fruit just mellows a bit with the tannins (which are never that strong anyway).

But the main reason I think it is the best Cab in B.C. is that it is made in the style I like the best.  Ripe fruit, touch of oak, not dominated by cedar or herbs, and just enough tannin to add structure but not make it unpleasant to drink young.

So if you get a chance, try a bottle…I don’t think you will be disappointed!  Bravo, Township 7!


“Wine-speak” from the 2010 Vancouver International Wine Festival

May 9, 2010

I didn’t want to leave this year’s wine festival without a few final comments on what was an otherwise excellent experience.  Specifically, I heard some “wine marketing” comments that almost drove me crazy…so wanted to pass them on to everyone else!

1. “It’s a food wine” – Oh boy, I don’t know how many times I heard that over a couple of events…had to really bite my tongue a couple of times, especially with one marketing rep. He was pouring an expensive French Burgundy that — given the winery and price — should have been stunning.  Instead, it was light, with very little fruit.  His response to my query was “Oh, it will go great with food…” The fact is, if a wine doesn’t taste good by itself, food isn’t going to do anything except mask the taste…

 2. “It’s a lighter vintage, but will develop for years” – Same winery, same rep. I pushed back on this one, saying there  wasn’t enough fruit to develop any further…he just smiled. I also should have asked if it was a lighter vintage, why didn’t he drop his price?

“3. This is so much better than those high alcohol wines” – that comment — a fair one if you don’t like alcohol — came from — surprise, surprise, a German wine rep! His wine was very nice, but talk about comparing apples and organges…and interesting that he didn’t comment on how sweet his wine was…I liked it, but too sweet for most tastes!

4. “It is probably worth $60 – $70, but we wanted to keep it affordable at $40” – This one nearly killed me for a couple of reasons.  First, the winery was from  B.C., and there are very few wines that, from a quality point of view, should be more than $40 (and that from me, a huge fan of B.C. wines!). Second, whoever decided $40 is affordable is dealing with a very small wine buying demographic.  But the biggest problem with the comment was the fact the wine just wasn’t that good…mostly oak, quite tannic, and would dry out before it was really drinkable. I smiled and walked away.

5. “I honestly don’t know how long it will age” – Let’s end this one on  a positive note! An Argentine producer poured a new wine they were making with an Italian winemaker, trying to emulate the style of Amarone (which is rich, almost sweet and very long lived). I quite liked it, but asked how long it would age and develop.  And, to his credit, he said he didn’t know…it was only the second vintage and they had no track record for the wine. Honesty…how refreshing!