Posts Tagged ‘Averill Creek’

Wineries and Wines to Checkout at the 2017 VIWF

February 15, 2017

Okay, my annual “where to go/what to taste” at the Vancouver International Wine Festival evening tastings Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

The “theme country” is Canada, so let’s start with us! All of these wineries are from my home province of BC:

• Averill Creek – great Pinot Noir from Vancouver Island winemaker Andy Johnston, and also check out their new sparkling wine
• Church & State – Coyote Bowl Syrah here, as well as their Bordeaux blend Quintessential
• Howling Bluff – Pinot Noir and the Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend
• La Frenz – best winery in Canada pouring great Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and outstanding red blend Grand Total Reserve
• Moon Curser – Bordeaux blend Border Vines and very nice Syrah
• Moraine – Pinot Noir, Syrah and Riesling
• NkMip – First Nations winery makes very nice Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

As for the rest of the world:

• Argentina – Zuccardi for Malbec/Malbec blends
• Australia – Inland Trading Company represents Cimicky, Kalleske and Massena reds
• France:
o J.M. Cazes makes nice Chateauneuf du Pape
o Chapoutier – world leader in Chateauneuf du Pape, Crozes Hermitage and a “cult” wine called Occultum
o Ferraton Pere – northern Rhone wines, including St. Joseph, Cornas and Crozes Hermitage
o Jean Luc Columbo – northern Rhone wines, particularly Cornas
o Louis Bernard – Chateauneuf du Pape, Vacqueyras
• Italy – Allegrini for red Veneto wines; Carpineto for Chianti and Vino Nobile; Rocca della Macie for Chianti and super- Tuscan Roccato
• Portugal – vintage ports from Fonseca and Taylor Fladgate
• California – Kendall Jackson Cabernet and Chardonnay; Signorello for Cabernet, Chardonnay and white blend Seta

That should keep you busy!

Enjoy, and don’t forget to spit…or this is way too much wine.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

VANCOUVER WINE FESTIVAL PRIMER #1: CABERNET SAUVIGNON AND PINOT NOIR

February 1, 2017

Okay, been a while, but I am back…and with the Vancouver International Wine Festival just a couple of weeks away, how about a primer on two of the most popular grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir – and what you can expect from their wines.

While the grapes are very different in terms of where they are grown and their flavour profiles, they are somewhat similar in terms of the two primary styles of wine.

The more traditional style for both grape varieties is what is usually called old world. For Cabernet Sauvignon, that tends to mean from Bordeaux (where it is usually the main player in a blend of grapes) and Burgundy (where Pinot Noir stands alone, except for the Beaujolais region). Both are from France.

What are the characteristics of that style? Well, in my experience and taste, the emphasis is more on wood – usually oak and cedar – and herbs. Tannins, too, tend to dominate, particularly when the wines are young. As they subside, the result can be smooth, but the amount of fruit that is still there? Except for the great wines – which are way too expensive for me – it is usually long gone.

You can probably tell, these are not my style of wines. I have had a small number of mind boggling older Burgundies and Bordeaux, but that is more than offset by the number of woody, herbal and dried out Bordeaux and Burgundy wines (young and old). Having said that, they are the most popular red wines in the world!

But there is another style of wine which I really like…some call it new world, but it has one key word to describe it – fruit!

Luscious black currants and cassis for Cabernet Sauvignons, and cherries (black and red) for Pinot Noir. Lovely vanilla and spice can overlay but not dominate this fruit.

You probably already know where the best of these kinds of wines come from! The USA – California, Oregon (for Pinot Noirs) and Washington (for Cabernet Sauvignons). But also from Australia and my home province of British Columbia (especially for Pinot Noir).

And don’t think that “fruity” means they can’t age. Some of the Cali Cabs can easily go for 15 – 20 years without losing their fruit.

Ironically, the best ones can also be almost as expensive as their French cousins (as anyone who has heard of so-called “cult wines” like Screaming Eagle or Harlan Estates).

What does this mean for the VIWF? Well, in looking at the list of wineries, I would recommend trying the following wineries in each of the styles:
• Old World Cabernet – Baron Phillipe de Rothschild, Dourthe, Borie Manoux (France), Mission Hill, Osoyoos Larose, Jackson Triggs (B.C.)
• New World Cabernet – Kendall Jackson, Robert Mondavi (California), Columbia Crest (Washington), La Frenz (B.C.)
• New World Pinot Noir – Etude (California), Whitehaven (New Zealand), La Frenz, Howling Bluff, Averill Creek, NkMip (B.C.)

Enjoy!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

SOME TIPS ON VISITING WINERIES DURING HARVEST SEASON

September 28, 2016

It’s Fall, and many people will be visiting wine country for festivals and to taste wines! So here are a few tips before you go…and some recommendations on where to go if you are visiting wineries in BC.

1. Remember it is harvest season – seems simple, but it is important…as much as wineries welcome you at this time of year, they are also getting ready – or even starting – to harvest this year’s vintage! That makes it very busy and stressful at all wineries. Keep that in mind if you get the sense your hosts have other things on their minds!

2. Fewer is better – whether it is the number of wineries or wines (or both), go for quality, not quality. No matter how good a taster you are, “palate fatigue” can set in pretty quickly. So pick the wineries you want to see in advance, and even the specific wines you want to taste. That will lead to a better experience.

3. Spit if you can – I know some people think it is gross, but spitting will really help you taste better – and more – wines. All wineries will have spittoons, and those leading tastings will actually be thankful if you spit.

4. Only buy if you really want to – unless you have unlimited resources, it’s okay to be choosey what you buy (if anything). Wineries won’t be insulted, particularly these days as most of them charge a tasting fee anyway. If you like it and can afford it, then buy it. Otherwise, don’t worry about it!

5. Taste and move on – finally, whether you are visiting wineries or going to a big tasting, don’t linger in the tasting line! Taste, maybe ask a question, but then move…you can always come back to taste more wines. One of the things that drives me and many “winos” crazy is people who just stand there for 10 or more minutes talking to the host or each other. That just backs up the line and gets people mad. So move it!

And as for tasting here in BC? Here is a short list of wineries to visit (or whose wines to taste) from our main regions:

1. Penticton/Naramata – La Frenz, Howling Bluff, Nichol, Marichel, Kettle Valley, Moraine
2. Similkameen – Eau Vivre, Orofino
3. Okanagan Falls – Blue Mountain
4. Southern Okanagan – Burrowing Owl, Nk Mip, Quinta Ferreira, Church & State, Moon Curser
5. Vancouver Island – Averill Creek, Rocky Creek, Vignetti Zanatta
6. Fraser Valley – Mt. Lehman, Vista d’Oro, Domaine de Chaberton

Enjoy the Fall!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Learnings from the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

March 9, 2016

A week late, but here are 5 things I learned from this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival:

1. The VIWF remains one of the best wine events anywhere

Year in, year out, regardless of the feature country/grape, the VIWF is outstanding and can compete with any festival in the world. It gets great producers, and they actually pour some of their best wines, which this year mean lots of Barolos, Barbarescos, Brunellos and Chianti Classico Riservas!

2. Young Barolo doesn’t have to be tannic

What a nice surprise! I love Barolo, but find it hard to taste/evaluate young…after 10+ years it is amazing, but young…except this year! I tasted a number of 2010’s and 2011’s that were really ripe…still with tannin, but way fruitier than usual. A much more enjoyable experience!

3. My favourite producers continue to be…my favourite producers!

Call it bias if you want, but it was great to see that some of my favourite producers once again made some of my favourite wines! Case in point? Averill Creek and their Pinot Noir…Andy continues to make unbelievably good wine on Vancouver Island, a gorgeous cross between Cali and Burgundy. The same goes for Famille Perrin and their Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel. Yes, it is expensive at about $90. But simply stunning, and having been drinking this wine since the 1981 vintage, I can tell you it is almost guaranteed to produce an orgasmic experience after 10 – 15+ years.

4. Its nice when expectations are exceeded

Argentina hasn’t been a big focus of mine for a while when it comes to fine wine, with too many producers using too much oak in their red wines (particularly their Malbecs). But Decero and Colome had beautiful wines, including a 100% Cabernet Franc that was as good as I have had in many years.

5. Its too bad when low expectations are met

Have to say it…sorry…but when I saw Mission Hill had some new single vineyard wines with fancy names (and price tags), I bet myself they wouldn’t be anything to write home about. Tasted them and…no surprise, I was right!

There you go…short but sweet for a rainy Wednesday night!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

5 Things to Focus on at 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

February 23, 2016

Can’t believe it is here again…the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival!

Italy is the host country this year, and they have pulled out all the stops. But with so many wines available to taste, what should your focus be? Here are 5 ideas (both Italy and beyond):

1. Barolo

I love Piedmont’s biggest wine, but it has become stupidly expensive, with most bottles over $60 (and I mean well over). But the Wine Festival provides a relatively cheap way to taste a dozen or more Barolos! Look for great producers like Damilano, Cesare, Conterno, Vietti. The only caveat — they are all young and will probably be very tannic…so watch out for a bad case of purple tongue!

2. Brunello di Montalcino

Same advice regarding Tuscany’s big red wine! There are numerous producers pouring 10 or more wines, and you can look for wineries like Argiano, Marchesi and San Polino. Brunellos tend to be not quite as tannic, so a little easier to enjoy young!

3. BC Wineries

I can’t leave out my homies…at least a couple of BC wineries warrant some attention, with Averill Creek leading the way! Andy is famous for his Pinot Noirs, but don’t miss his Pinot Gris as well. Burrowing Owl doesn’t have their Syrah, but try their Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc…a bit “Bordeaux like” for me, but nice wines. Finally,
Quails Gate makes nice — if expensive — Cali style Pinot Noir.

4. California

Not a lot of wineries this year, but some of the biggies are here. Mondavi, Beringer, Signorello, Seghesio…all are worth checking out.

5. France

Even fewer from France, but one of my favourite wineries is back…Famille Perrin, which makes Chateau de Beaucastel (which they are pouring, along with their Coudoulet and Vacqueyras). Definitely worth a trip!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Goodbye Summer Wine…but Hello Fall!

September 2, 2015

Mixed emotions tonight, as the calendar has turned along with the weather…summer is gone, and with it the summer wine!

What did I enjoy most this summer from a wine perspective? Well, it was hot here in BC…very hot. So that mean a lot of Roses and white wines.

Interestingly, we didn’t find as many Roses that really jumped out at us. Quails Gate was its usually solid self…as was Joie (although a bit pricey). Chaberton’s Valley Pink might now be the best of the BC Roses, and we drank a bunch of that.

Still, nothing replaced the La Frenz (which Jeff and Niva don’t make anymore) or the style that Township 7 used to make. Ah, well…

Whites, however, were great this summer! Howling Bluff again lead the way, both with their Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon and their straight Sauvignon Blanc. Both super pure, no wood, luscious grapefruit. La Frenz’s new whites were also great – Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling. And Chardonnay from Quinta Ferreira – a beautiful Cali style.

We even snuck in some Pinot Noirs when the temp went down a bit. Both new ones (like Kalala, Nk Mip and Averill Creek) and older versions from the cellar (Blue Mountain Reserve, Kettle Valley Reserve and Hayman).

Pinot Noir will stick around for the fall and winter, of course, but I now look forward to bigger red wines as the weather cools!

Back to the Rhone Valley for Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and even good old Cotes du Rhone. Australia – for Shiraz, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and blenew – and Italy, as I have some older Barolos, Barbarescos and Brunellos in my cellar that are ready to drink. How about some Rioja? I have a bunch of ‘85s ready to go. And Syrah? Well, back to BC…Nichol and Marichel wines are aging nicely in my cellar. And don’t forget Cabernet-based wines, mostly from California and Washington, although a few from BC and Australia as well.

Finally, Port…the real vintage stuff from Portugal, as well as similar style wines from d’Arenberg in Australia and La Frenz here at home.

Hmm…I am getting thirsty already…bring on the rain, and break out the decanter!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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

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

Can You Have a Wine Competition…Without the Best Wines?

July 8, 2015

Those who follow my blog know that I have a problem with wine competitions in general. But today I saw something that almost put me over the edge! So I had to blog about it.

The third – I think it is the third – BC Pinot Noir Celebration is occurring in August. Not only that, they have coaxed international wine celebrity Steven Spurrier (he of “Bottle Shock” fame) to come. The purpose is to bring together great Pinot Noirs from BC and other parts of the world to “compare” – not compete – and discuss.

The problem? The list of BC Pinot Noirs that the judges have decided to have don’t include the best producers in BC!

Anybody who knows anything about BC Pinot Noir knows that two producers have historically made the best wine – Blue Mountain (with their Reserve Pinot Noir) and Kettle Valley (with their Hayman and Reserve bottlings). I have personal tasting notes from these wines going back over 10 years…they are not only stunning young, but can age for 8+ years.

And then there are the newcomers. La Frenz from Naramata? Averill Creek from Vancouver Island? Both make outstanding wines, capable of at least near term aging…but they aren’t there either.

That got me to thinking…why?

The simplest answer might be that these wineries declined to participate. And if that is the case, you can stop reading right now.

But if they did want to…submitted wines to the “judging panel”…and weren’t accepted, what does that say about the panel and those who are promoting BC wines?

And even if they didn’t submit wines, what will the general public think? The event has the opportunity to get huge publicity…but if the best wines aren’t there?

Perhaps the wineries in question don’t need to care. Blue Mountain and Kettle Valley don’t make a lot of their wine, so it won’t affect sales. La Frenz and Averill Creek? Probably the same.

But as a wine dweeb…it pisses me off! The wines that are missing can be outstanding …world class! And they miss out?

Makes me want to send some to Robert Parker…hey, now that is an idea!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

BC WINE TASTING SHOWS ONCE AGAIN THAT “THE BEST WINE IS WINE YOU LIKE THE BEST”

October 16, 2014

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!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com