Archive for April, 2011

2010 Naramata Spring Release Tasting — New Whites Look Great, Reds Mixed

April 22, 2011

Another great Naramata Spring Release tasting yesterday, made even better by the new, larger venue — at the Westin Bayshore.

While generalizations can always get you in trouble, I will hazard a few anyway:

• Despite the cold, wet summer last year, most of the 2010 white wines were very good to excellent

• ’09 reds — the few that were poured — were more mixed

• the ‘big red wine’ problem seems to be continuing, with a number of wineries putting out mouth-searing, fruit-deprived wines

From an overall winery perspective, La Frenz is still clearly heads and shoulders above everyone else. Their 2010 whites – Sauvignon Blanc. Semillon, Viognier, and Riesling – are all outstanding and at $19 – $22 ridiculous bargains. The ’08 Merlot was also very good — not quite as fruit-forward as in the past, but still ripe with good structure (give it a couple of years) and fairly priced at $25. All go on sale Monday, April 25th

Individual wines of note from other wineries included:

• ’10 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon by newly re-branded Howling Bluff (now Summa Quies) was incredibly fruity and ripe without being sweet ($19)

• ’10 Syrah Rose by Black Widow was medium pink, fresh with ripe strawberries, almost completely dry ($22)

• ’08 Portfolio by Laughing Stock (an existing release) is a huge wine, with vanilla flavoured currants quickly giving way to big tannins; 3 – 5 years away ($40)

• ’08 Syrah by Marichel (existing release) is just as good as when I tasted/bought it last summer; really ripe black, peppery fruit, no obvious oak, smooth and lush with soft tannins ($39)

• ’09 Syrah by Marichel (Barrel sample) already shows great ripeness and almost liqueur fruit concentration; to be released in July ($39)

• ’08 Syrah (existing release) by Nichol is a dead ringer for a northern Rhone Syrah, with earthy, meaty, peppery fruit that is ripe but in a leaner structure ($32); also, I was told the ’10 Pinot Gris — their pink wine, a true ‘Gris’ – is just being bottled and while not as dark a colour as the ’09, is made in the same crisp style

• ’07 Reserve Pinot Noir by Kettle Valley was young but in great shape for drinking; ripe red cherries, touch of earth and vanilla, and a long, long finish. It was so good I couldn’t spit it out! ($40)

I won’t spend any time on the wines on the other end of the spectrum; as my mother taught me, say something nice or don’t say anything at all!

Having said that, I have to make a comment about the continuing mystery that is Township 7. Once arguably my favourite BC winery, T7 seems to be in a strange place. No new wines were presented, the only winery to do that, I believe. They continue to pour an ’08 Rose (when most have ’10s). And their reds — apart from the ’07 Syrah — are a leaner, woodier, more tannic style (that includes the ’08 Cab/Merlot, the ’07 Cab and the ’07 Merlot). Even the ’07 Syrah is different from past vintages, with good berry fruit but more tannin. Not sure what is going on at this winery, but I hope they get it figured out soon.


Tweeting My Way Through the Wine Festival

April 12, 2011

Hard to believe it has been a couple of weeks since the annual Vancouver International Film Festival! But I resolved to do something different this year — specifically, to “tweet” my way through the entire evening of the Thursday night grand tasting.

What an experience! As I rode the skytrain home, I did some calculations and found — to my amazement — that I actually tasted about the same number of wines as usual (60+, with spitting, of course!). But took me far longer to do so, as I was there right till the end (when I am usually done with 30 – 45 minutes to spare).

For those who want to try this, here are a few things I learned:

1) As mentioned above, it does take longer. I worked it out and you can count on a couple of minutes per tweet.

2) Having said that, you can learn to do it efficiently. For example, I “bundled” wines from a producer together in each tweet, meaning I could cover 4 – 5 wines at a time. Only really exceptional wines got their own tweet.

3) It takes a while to work the best routine out. It’s hard to work a blackberry, hold a glass and the program all at once, so in the end the best way I found was to taste, spit and then move to one of the tables in the aisle and use it to hold your glass and program while you tweet.

4) Watch out for you tweeting device! With all the swirling and spitting, it can be easy for wine to get spilled. I had a couple of close calls, but nothing got on my blackberry.

5) Expect some funny looks! I got a couple of “wow, you’re taking it seriously, aren’t you” comments, although that may also be because I had my media badge on.

6) Also expect to get some on-line attention!I don’t have a lot of followers, but the tweet stream caused some immediate reaction and also ended up adding followers to my account!

7) Finally, it’s a great — and often more legible — way to track what you tasted! I usually have trouble reading my tasting notes after a big tasting, but I had a full — if abridged — set of them at the end of the evening, which was great.

My conclusion afterwards was I will do it again. And I will soon have the chance — the annual Naramata Bench Spring Release Trade tasting is next week, so stay tuned! You can get my information at my website below.

Happy wine tweeting!


Top White Wines from the Vancouver International Wine Festival

April 3, 2011

Another year, another VIWF…and it was fabulous once again! Today’s entry will deal with the best white wines I found at the festival, with reds to come later in the week.

Without further ado, in alphabetical order:

Cassini Cellars (BC)

The 2008 Chardonnay Reserve was as good a white wine as I tasted all night, and a big surprise (as was this BC winery). Golden yellow, nice mix of vanilla, butter and citrus on the nose, and rich, luscious, buttery citrus fruit in the mouth with a touch of nuts; almost like a French Meursault. All this for $28.91! Alas, only available at the winery.

Noble Ridge (BC)

The 2008 Chardonnay from this BC winery wasn’t huge in size, but very nicely balanced. A mix of California and French Chablis style, with just a touch of oak around very ripe citrus fruit. A good deal at $23…again, only at the winery.

Painted Rock (BC)

“A fruit bomb” was what my notes said about the 2009 from this BC winery! Really ripe fruit, nice layer of vanilla/butter from the oak; very nice for $30 at the winery.

Tantalus (BC)

These guys are Riesling specialists, and their current offerings reaffirmed that once again! The “regular” 2009 Riesling was just a touch sweet, but had great acidity to balance it off. Medium bodied with a touch of minerals, it is nice for $22 and available in government liquor stores.

The 2008 Old Vines is a different animal altogether. More like a dry German or Alsation Riesling, this one is full bodied and almost chewy, like a red wine. Petrol and mineral aromas give way to pear-flavoured fruit and a long finish. A candidate for 5+ years in the cellar. At $29 it isn’t cheap, but the quality is very high.

Geisen (New Zealand)

The 2009 Brothers Sauvignon Blanc blew me away…it may be the best SB I have ever tried. Tropical fruits and grasses on the nose, huge body and ripe, but not sweet fruit, no sign of obvious oak, this was a joy to drink. I bought a couple of bodies ’cause it isn’t available in stores here, and at $21.99 was a knockout bargain.

Miner Family (California)

I didn’t taste a lot of California wines (ran out of time), but this was a beauty…my notes say “reminds me of the Beringer Private Reserve”, high praise indeed. Classic Cal Chardonnay, with vanilla, butter and butterscotch covered citrus fruit, huge body, and so lush and round in the mouth. It was $40, so not cheap, but what a great wine!

Meyer Family (BC)

I will end with a little controversy, for me anyway. Meyer Family Vineyards made a “spash” in the BC wine market a few years ago with some $60+ wines…I have never been there or tasted their wines, so took advantage at the festival. On the plus side, the “regular” Chardonnay was very nice, but at $35?? And the reserve (can’t remember exact name) was excellent — it also reminded me of the Beringer Private Reserve — but at $65??? I had a nice chat with the wine rep, but we had to “agree to disagree” on whether the price justified the value. In my mind, it didn’t…haven’t tasted a BC wine yet that was worth that much money (compared to what you can get elsewhere in the world for that kind of money).

That’s it for whites; watch for reds coming later in the week!