Archive for January, 2014


January 15, 2014

A couple of weeks into the new year, and I am still seeing wine columns on what to expect for this year! Well, let me turn that on its head a bit, and write about four things I would like to see in wine in 2014 – BC wine in particular.

1. Lower prices

This one could probably lead the list every year, but that doesn’t make it any less important. As readers of this blog know, I strongly believe that BC wine prices have gotten way out of hand. It is rare to find a good wine for under $20, and there are way too many going for $40 (and more).

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all for free enterprise, and winery owners making as much money as they deserve. But the fact is the quality is just not there to justify those prices. So give everyone a break and keep the prices reasonable.

2. Talk about style

Fortunately, there is less and less bad wine made in BC. Overpriced, yes, but not bad.

What we do continue to have, however, are two major differences in style, particularly with red wines. There is the “big red wine” syndrome – as I call it – which promotes fierce tannin and strong herbal/cedar/oak over fruit, in imitation of Bordeaux. And then there are those (unfortunately still too few) who emphasize the fruit in their wines.

Because of these differences in style, I would love to see wineries be more clear on the labels and in their marketing information. Don’t be putting a bunch of “fruit” descriptors if there isn’t that much there, or if it is covered up by wood and tannin. Similarly, if it is going to sear your palate, let folks know.

I always urge people to find out the style of wine they like and then go find others like it. But they need to know what wines are like before they buy them, and winemakers can help with that.

3. More fruit, please!

Yes, this is my style bias…but it is also my blog, so I can promote it! We need more BC red wines that emphasize fruit, not wood. Tannin is fine, but there has to be enough ripe fruit underneath it to survive the time it takes for the tannin to subside.

It’s not like it can’t be done, and done well. La Frenz has been doing it from the beginning with its Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots, as have Pinot Noir producers like Blue Mountain, Kettle Valley and Eau Vivre, and Syrah makers like Nichol and Marichel. And it can also be done economically – Cassini Cellars has proved that with it’s under $20 Merlot and Pinot Noir. So come on, everybody else!

4. No more label marketing

Finally, let’s stop with the wine label marketing. Whether animals, comic book characters, drawings or rock bands – just forget it! Wine should be about what’s in the bottle, not on the outside. I have personally taken a stand against these kinds of labels (on BC wines and others from around the world).

So there you go…four simple things I wish for in 2014 from wine in BC. Will I get them? Well…I guess we will just have to wait and see!


Looking back to 2013 as we move into 2014

January 9, 2014

Happy New Year to all!

As I thought about what to write about to start the year, it occurred to me that a look back at what I drank in the way of BC wines might be interesting.

And when I did…it was!

For whites, there was a new trend — away from Chardonnays and towards other varietals. Interestingly, not because I am less interested in them — that big, fat Cali style is still a favourite — but it was harder to find them. I liked Church & State’s and Cassini’s Reserve, as well as the Reserve from La Frenz, but that was about it. Township 7’s new vintage showed promise, so that is good…but that’s it!

For other white wines, I continued to love the triumvirate from La Frenz – Semillon, Viognier and Riesling. They continue to be the best in BC, and ridiculous values at around $20! And their new white Bordeaux blend — Ensemble – while pricier at about $30, is almost exactly like wines you would pay $60+++ from France.

The other highlights were the white wines from Howling Bluff – Pinot Gris and Sauvignon/Semillon blend. Fresh, super fruity without being sweet (the white grapefruit flavours in the Gris are incredible), they are also under $20!! If Howling Bluff keeps it up, La Frenz will have some serious competition!

Roses are next and, it was La Frenz again for us, as we went through about a case of the lovely 2012. I tried really hard to find similar fruit forward wines, but had little luck. The only other was from Quail’s Gate, which was a super bargain at about $15.

For reds, Pinot Noir was the winner – 19 wines from my cellar – followed by Syrah at 12. I think that is a good reflection on what red grapes grow best in BC!

With the Pinots, Kettle Valley lead the way with 3 vintages of both the Hayman and Reserve (the 2005, 2007 and 2008). Both wines continue to show they age well, with the 2005s being the best of the bunch.

There were also a couple of vintages of Blue Mountain’s Reserve Pinot Noir (also the ’05, ’07 and’08). All were great, and the ’07 was particularly gorgeous on Xmas at Bear Mountain!

A couple of other wineries had two different vintages, and the one that most intrigues me is Eau Vivre. The 2008 and 2009 were LG award winners, and in beautiful shape. If this winery shows its wines can develop for 5 – 8 yrs, watch out, as they are <$20!

Syrah next, and no surprise that Nichol lead the pack with three vintages, including the 2003 Reservare. This is not only the best Syrah in BC, it is the only one that truly tastes like a northern Crozes-Hermitage as it ages – amazing!

Nobody else had more than one vintage, but a couple of up and comers were impressive – ‘09’s from both Moon Curser and Mt Lehman were very, very nice!

Finally, the enigma that is Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot continued! The only one to completely solve it is La Frenz, and I drank a couple of vintages of both (’07 and ’08 of the former, ’08 and ’09 for the latter). They age well in the short term, have beautiful fruit, no overbearing herbal/tannic attack and still cost <$30! The only others I had were from Moon Curser (their Border Vines blend is gorgeous) and Cassini, whose $18.95 Merlot may be the best bargain BC wine out there!

So what have I learned as I look at my cellar book for 2014? Well, when I see all the Pinot Noirs and Syrahs for reds, at least, (and who they come from), the message seems to be clear – plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose!