Archive for December, 2011

Xmas 2011 Wine Bargains

December 14, 2011

Less than a two weeks to go till the big day, and if you need to stock up on wine this is the blog for you!!!

Red and white, sweet and sparkling, cheap and…well, a bit more expensive (but it won’t break anyone’s bank account).

Bargain reds seem to always be the easiest picks for some reason, and this year is no exception. Two of the best, in my opinion, come from France and Spain. The 2011 Vin de Pays by Domaine la Bastide — a mix of Rhone varietals like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre — is fresh and grapey, with ripe black fruits, just a touch of earth, and no oak in sight. At < $10, you can afford to buy it by the case!

Its the same for the latest vintage of Castano's Monastrell. The 2010 is also fully ripe, with earthy black cherries and, again, no oak to wooden things up. And at $11.97 it is also a super value!

Whites are a bit harder to find, but I have good luck with Sauvignon Blanc. The '10 Reserva from Santa Carolina in Chile is bang on varietally, smelling of fresh grass and herbs, followed by crisp, citrus fruit in the mouth, bone dry, with a light touch of oak. At $12.99, it is impressive.

A similar — and even cheaper — wine is 2010 from Two Oceans in South Africa. If anything, it is even fresher and fruitier than the one from Chile and also a buck or two cheaper at $10.49.

The next level up — in quality and price — also has lots of options. If you are going to spend $25 – $40, I would recommend looking to the Cotes du Rhone in France for reds. The 2007 and 2009 vintages are on the shelves and very impressive, as the fruit was very ripe and made wines that are drinking well now but will also age for a few years. Try the 2007 Vacqueyras Les Christins by Perrin (the makers of the famous Chateau de Beaucastel) fro $26.99 and get a pure "Grenache experience", with dried herbs, earthy dried cherries, super ripeness and body, and no oak; just a gorgeous wine and great with roast turkey! For about $10 more, you can move up to a nice Chateauneuf du Pape — the 2007 from Les Clefs d'Or. Similar in flavour and style, it is a bit bigger and more tannic, so can keep for 5+ years or be decanted an hour or so in advance of drinking right now.

Whites, once again, are a different story. Lots of overpriced California Chardonnays and not enough dry Rieslings and Gewurztraminers! One exception is the '09 Gewurztraminer by Alsation producer Domaine Zind-Humbrecht. This famous winemaker (Robert Parker has called him one of the best in the world) gives us a huge wine for $28.99 – classic lychee nut, spicy nose, rich, medium body and ripe but not sweet fruit!

Finally, sparkling and sweet wines. The first is easy, as it is always the same! Spain's Segura Viudas makes a NV Brut that, year in, year out is a killer value! Lots of crisp, green apples in that Cava-style, it is light and refreshing — and still around $15!

As for sweet wines, there are no value priced, mature half bottles of Port I can recommend this year. But there is an intriguing wine from B.C's Quail's Gate – the '09 Fortified Marechal Foch. This native BC grape comes through big time with its meaty, spicy, black fruit that is turned sweet (but not cloying) by the residual sugar left behind when the fermenting was stopped. And at $22.99 for a half bottle, it is a good value.

So there you go; some options for your holiday wine shopping. All should be available in pretty good quantities at BC government liquor stores.


BC Wines for Christmas

December 5, 2011

It’s that time of year, so here are my picks for BC wines that you can give as gifts for Christmas. I will break it up between those you can by in the government liquor stores (not many, unfortunately) and those you will have to buy direct from the winery (unless you can find them in a private wine store).

Government Liquor Stores

Just in time for Xmas, Nk Mip Vineyards has released the new vintage of its Pinot Noir. The 2010 is a worthy follow-up to the very good 2009, with deep red colour, classic cherry/earth/vanilla aromas and flavours, and a lush, smooth texture. Still selling for $19.99, it is one of the quality bargains out there from BC.

Not as much of a bargain — and a wine that needs to lay down for while — is the 2009 Syrah from Burrowing Owl. This is a special order from this now iconic winery, so not sure how much is still around, but it is, in my opinion, the best wine this winery now makes (and the only one I buy for my cellar). Classic French-style Syrah, it is dark, with pepper, black fruit, earth and bit of meat flavour — a real “red wine”. The oak is integrated well here, so don’t expect a jammy Shiraz. And, as mentioned in the intro, I would lay it down for a couple of years or decant it for a couple of hours before hand to let it smooth out. At $29.90 it isn’t a bargain, but there is quality here for sure.

For whites, I would recommend going back to Burrowing Owl again for their 2009 Chardonnay. Made in a pseudo-California style, the oak provides a nice vanilla/butter kiss to the citrus fruit in a medium bodied framework. At $24.91, it also offers pretty good value for this style of wine.

The only other white is even in shorter supply — the 2010 Riesling by Tantalus Vineyards. Only a couple of cases of this German look-a-like are still around, but if you find some grab it — lovely mineral, slightly off-dry fruit, medium body, really ripe; almost as good as the La Frenz!. Just a great wine for $22.90, and it would go very well with turkey.

At the Winery

Speaking of La Frenz, a quick check of their website shows only two wines are still available — the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon for $29.00 and the 2008 Total Reserve (a Bordeaux blend) for $40. If you have a wine snob on the Xmas list, get him the Cab — it is the best in BC (if not in Canada) and easily competes with California wines at twice the price! It is a fabulous vanilla/blackcurrant filled bottle that will drink well for 3 – 5 years.

Also a great pick for a gift is the 2009 Syrah from Nichol Vineyards, which was just released a couple of months ago. This is the best Syrah in Canada — peppery, earthy, meaty and lean but ripe. It ages amazingly well, and develops even more French character over the course of 6 – 8 years. It is $35, but worth the price.

Another best in BC/Canada is available from Kettle Valley — the 2008 Hayman Vineyard Pinot Noir. Only 88 cases of this beauty are made, so it is surprising it is still around. Not your typical California style Pinot, this one is very Burgundian, with earthy/mushroomy overtones to the red cherry fruit. It is best cellared for 3 – 5 years, but can also keep for 10 in good vintages. Again, not cheap at $38, but a bargain compared to French or Californian wines of equal quality at 3 – 4 times the price.

Last, but not least, Blue Mountain’s Reserve Pinot Noir may be sold out, but they still have their NV Sparkling Wine, which might be the best in BC. Made in a Spanish Cava style with crisp green apples and just a hint of toast, it will go well with any celebration. And the $25 price tag is great compared against other wines of this quality.

So there you have it — some BC wine suggestions for gifts this year. Next week, I will do the annual “what to serve with dinner” blog, before taking a break until 2012.