Archive for August, 2015

Whither Vancouver Island Wine?

August 26, 2015

Time to report back on our brief trip to Vancouver Island last week, which featured a half day touring some wineries.

The good news? The best wineries are making amazing wine. But some of the rest is only “middling’ at best”.

Let’s start with the best, and that is Averill Creek! Andy Johnson has been making tremendous Pinot Noir for years now at his Mt. Prevost winery, and the 2011 is no exception. In a word – stunning! Purple, spicy/earthy black cherries, silky tannins…at least 3 – 5 years of life in it.

The rest of his wines are nothing to sneeze at either! Their Cab/Foche – “Foch Eh?” – is super ripe, and meant to be served chilled. A good bargain. For whites, the Pinot Gris is a very nice oak-aged wine, the Gewurztraminer one of the few dry versions I have tasted, and the sparkling fresh and pure. And the ’14 Somenos Rose is summer in a bottle!

Next up in quality is Rocky Creek. Such a small place off the highway – literally, you will miss it if you don’t look for it – but it is worth finding! For reds, it is Pinot Noir again…not as big or age worthy as Averill Creek, but the 2013 is very pure…I bought a couple to see how it develops. Next best is their sparkle – Catherine’s Sparkle, after the daughter. Clean, crisp, Cava style – nice wine! They also make a true “Gris” wine – a white that stays on its skins to add colour. Almost orange, the ’13 is bone dry but very flavourful. And the Roberts Rose (after their son)? Nothing to sneeze at!

Third on the list is Zanatta Winery. A bit hard to find (literally in the forest), it specializes in sparkling wine. While you can’t taste them in the tasting room, they do flights at the Bistro – and it is well worth it! No longer vintage wines, the three versions are still aged on their lees and very complex…and at about $25, represent ridiculous values in this kind of wine. And don’t miss the bistro for some nice food!

Finally, Blue Grouse…stunning new winery, but this Pinot Noir producer only makes 120 cases of their flagship wine, so not available to taste. I bought some anyway based on past experience, but it would have been nice to try there! The rest of the wines were middling’ at best.

That was all the time we had on the Sunday (aside form an attempt at Venturi-Schulze, which was cut short by a loud mouth braggart behind the tasting bar who I couldn’t but put up with; had to leave – what a jerk).

So quantity of wineries – not so sure, as I didn’t get to all of them.

But quality of a few? Very high…nice to see, and bodes well for the future!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Advertisements

Handicapping the 2015 BC Pinot Noir Celebration

August 19, 2015

Okay, back from holidays, and I can’t resist being a bit cheeky with my first blog!

It relates the the 2015 BC Pinot Noir Celebration scheduled for this weekend in Kaleden (in BC’s beautiful Similkameen Valley). For those not familiar with the event, it was started last year by a number of BC wineries to celebrate the so-called ‘heartbreak grape’. Billed purposely as a ‘celebration’ and not a ‘competition’, it never-the-less has entry requirements and features tastings that can’t help but lend themselves to comparisons! And with international wine celebrity Steven Spurrier the host this year (he of Bottle Shock fame), there may be more competition references than ever!

So given that – and my interest in being cheeky – I am going to handicap the event similar to the way film critics do with potential Academy Award winners!

My categories will be three:
* best overall Pinot Noir Winery
* best Reserve Pinot Noir (5 + years old)
* best regular Pinot Noir.

In doing this, I will also reference wineries/wines that aren’t there if that is relevant.

So here we go!

Best Pinot Noir Winery

My Nominees: Kettle Valley, Blue Mountain, Quail’s Gate, Meyer

a) Should win – Kettle Valley (not there)

BC Pinot Noir dweebs like me know that the Kettle Valley Hayman Vineyard is the only true Burgundian Pinot in BC, as well as one of the best. The more Cali-style Reserve is not far behind, and even the regular Pinot Noir is beautiful. This award would be an easy choice for me!

b) Would win – Quail’s Gate or Meyer Family

Quail’s Gate has been making reserve and regular Pinot Noirs since the beginning of the BC wine industry and while the former are a bit pricey, they are definitely good. Plus they are VQA. Meyer is a relative newcomer, but gets good press for its pricey wines. And according to the media, are the only BC Pinots that Spurrier has followed in England. Neither make better Pinot Noirs than Kettle Valley, but…Take your pick!

Best Reserve/High End Pinot Noir (5+ years old)

My Nominees: Kettle Valley Hayman, Kettle Valley Reserve, Blue Mountain Reserve, La Frenz Reserve, Averill Creek Reserve, Howling Bluff, Meyer (Mclean Creek or Reimer), Foxtrot, Quail’s Gate Family Reserve, Cedarcreek Platinum

a) Should win – Kettle Valley Hayman (not there) and Blue Mountain Reserve

Boy, this would be a great tasting…and one I would pay just to attend! I have cellared half of these wines for a decade or more, and tasted the rest a number of times.

Based on my experience, after 5 years in a better than average vintage, you would actually have to pick two wines because of different styles. The Hayman starts tasting/smelling like Burgundy at that age, and there is nothing else in BC like it. Meanwhile, the Blue Mountain Reserve has evolved as well, into a Burgundy/Cali clone. Different, but just as delicious.

By the way, a couple of wines would be sleepers, if only because I haven’t seen them age yet. Both Howling Bluff and La Frenz have stepped up big time in this category…it will be interesting to watch their wines as they age!

b) Would win – Quails Gate Family Reserve or Cedarcreek Platinum or Meyer (either)

Both Quail’s Gate and Cedarcreek are long time darlings of the industry. They do make good (if often expensive) wine, but not as good as either the Blue Mountain Reserve of Kettle Valley Hayman (or the Kettle Valley Reserve, La Frenz Reserve, Howling Bluff and Averill Creek Reserve). Same for Meyer.

Best Regular Pinot Noir

My Nominees: Averill Creek, La Frenz, Eau Vivre, Moraine, Blue Mountain, Quail’s Gate, Cedarcreek, Meyer, Okanagan Crush Pad, Tantalus

a) Should win – Eau Vivre (not there) or Averill Creek

Eau Vivre is a back to back Lieutenant Governor Award winner and still about $20…’nuff said! A great wine, year in, year out. And Averill Creek’s regular Pinot Noir is a stunning achievement, not just for Vancouver Island, but for anywhere.

Others to watch? La Frenz’s new regular Pinot Noir, and Moraine (a new kind on the block).

b) Would win – Okanogan Crush Pad, Tantalus

The former is the latest media darling – a spot for winemakers to come make their wines. A good idea, but I haven’t tasted great Pinot yet. And Tantalus? They are one of the founders of this event…
Now, let’s wait for the media to report out this weekend!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

WHAT IS A BARGAIN, ANYWAY?

August 5, 2015

I was struggling a bit about a topic this week, but then my coaching buddy Jim inadvertently gave it to me at practice this afternoon!

He mentioned going into a local pub’s wine store looking for a red wine to drink with something on the barbecue…California Cab was his focus, and something that wouldn’t break the bank. He was looking around and saw a blend from Bennett Lane for under $25…and it was a 2006! He did a double take, checked the price, and bought a bottle to try.

He said it was – in a word – amazing! So I went there after practice, bought a bottle…and definitely confirmed his initial impression.

But does that make it a bargain?

Well, let’s think about that word…and what it really means!

For some people, it means something “cheap”. That is not a wrong answer, including when it comes to wine. If you can find a $10 wine these days that actually tastes like the grape it is made of, then you have definitely found yourself a bargain!

But it doesn’t have to mean “cheap” either.

At its most basic definition, a “bargain” means getting something at a lower price than you expect to pay. So, technically, that means the actual price doesn’t mean anything at all!

That works for me at the $20 – $30 range. While that is more than I usually pay for “everyday” drinking wine, I can somehow justify it if the wine tastes like it should cost twice as much!

I use the same philosophy with respect to the wines I buy for my cellar. Usually I won’t go over $50 a bottle, and the wine must be rated over 90 points by Parker.

But if I see a wine I love…like Chateauneuf du Pape, or Barolo, or Barbaresco…and it is rated over 95 points…I can justify paying 10 – 15 dollars more because I think it is a “bargain”!

However, I draw the line at wines priced much more than that. Personally, I can’t justify a wine that is $70 or more, no matter what the rating. Yes, it may be a bargain for that kind of wine (Bordeaux or Burgundy comes to mind). But for me…that is just too dear!

So after all that, what is the definition of a bargain? Well, like many things in life…it depends.
But in wine, it comes down to what you like, value…and are willing to pay for!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com