I was asked a couple of weeks ago by Dave Vallee, a local realtor and friend, to select wines for a customer appreciation event he was having at the Fraser River Discovery Centre in New Westminster, and then be available to talk about the wines to the 150+ attendees. It was a great event – more on that in a moment – but what struck me most was that, once again, the definition of “good wine” is definitely a personal one!
My parameters for the wines were pretty specific. They had to be from BC and reasonably priced – whites around $20, reds about $25. And, of course, they had to be good!
Based on those guidelines – and what was still available in stores and from the wineries themselves – I chose the following wines:
• 2013 Semillon – La Frenz (Naramata/$22)
• 2013 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – Howling Bluff (Naramata/$20)
• 2011 Syrah/Viognier – Marichel Vineyards (Naramata/$20)
• 2012 Merlot – La Frenz (Naramata/$26)
• 2010 Pinot Noir – Averill Creek (Vancouver Island/$26)
Not bad, eh? All of these wines I have been drinking/cellaring for years, and buying for my wine club as well. They are also award winners, including the Howling Bluff wine (which won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award this year).
So there is definitely “no bad wine” here! But what would people think?
Most of the people I met I would say were wine drinkers, but there were probably only a couple of “wine dweebs” like me. So a fairly knowledgeable audience, if not so-called experts.
But the results still blew me away on a number of fronts.
First, the whites. Of everyone is spoke with, there seemed to be an almost equal split. Some liked the La Frenz, some the Howling Bluff. But that wasn’t the fascinating part. There were people – on both sides – who said they loved one, but…wait for it…hated the other! Yes, hated it!
I was gobsmacked! Resisting the temptation to disagree, I forced myself to ask them why? Not a lot of details were forthcoming…mostly a gut reaction (no pun intended). But a passionate one, none-the-less.
Now, if any of you out there have tried these wines, you will understand my incredulity. The La Frenz is the best Semillon not only in BC, but perhaps in North America – hands down. And the Howling Bluff wine is the essence of white grapefruit…incredible! So how could you “hate” either one?
The reds saw a similar kind of reaction, although this one was a bit easier to understand.
The favourite was the Marichel Syrah/Viognier, hands down…and after tasting all three, I could understand why. Closer in style to a Shiraz than a Syrah, it is super fruity (without being too jammy), with no tannin and no hard edges. How anyone couldn’t like that wine, I don’t know. It is easy to drink…for everyone, including the average wine drinker. So it made sense that it won.
The other two reds had more mixed reactions. Some liked them, a few loved them, and a few hated both of them. Again, I disagree with the latter reviews – they are both amazing wines. But they are also young. Andy’s Pinot Noir is a stunning Burgundy look-a-like, but still has some tannin to shed. And the Jeff’s Merlot – easily the best Merlot in BC – has more than just simple fruit in it. The earth and licorice are almost savoury, but it is also a bit young.
Now don’t get me wrong, I did find people who loved both of these wines. But far fewer than the Syrah/Viognier.
So the “lesson learned”?
Well, I couldn’t help thinking back to something a wine educator told me in one of the few formal wine courses I have ever taken. When asked “what is the best wine”, he replied by saying “the wine you like the best”. In a roomful of great BC wines, that was definitely the case!