Posts Tagged ‘Blue Mountain’

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

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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

WHEN THE GRAPES IN THE GROUND DON’T MATCH UP WITH THE BEST WINES

November 5, 2014

As a BC wine dweeb, I was a bit shocked this past week to see the annual update on grape acreage in BC. It wasn’t the amount – we jumped over the 10,000 acre mark, which is great!

No, it was the “top grapes in the ground” that left me shaking my head. They were – in descending order – merlot, pinot gris, pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, gewürztraminer, cabernet franc, syrah, riesling, and sauvignon blanc.

For those who know even a little about BC, the first reason for my incredulity may be apparent. Our climate – while nice – is not as conducive to red grapes as to white, and certainly not to red grapes that ripen later – like merlot and cabernet sauvignon. So to see those as #1 and #5 seemed odd. Many of our wines made from these grapes are quite woody and herbal, as well as tannic, with little obvious fruit. Kinda like most Bordeaux, without the prestige! And cabernet franc? Come on…even in the Loire Valley – where it is famous – the wine is green and unripe. Only in California can they occasionally get it ripe enough to make it worth drinking.

The same kind of argument can be made for our white wines. Chardonnay needs to be ripe to be good…and very few producers here make good ones. Meanwhile, most of the pinot gris is hard to distinguish from the other white wines.

At the other end of the spectrum…how can riesling be second from the bottom? Of all the grapes on that list, it is the one that can have the highest acidity and doesn’t need to get super ripe to make great wines.

Not only that, we make arguably the best riesling in Canada (if not North America). Taste the wines from La Frenz or Tantalus…you will be blown away.

The same can be said for Syrah, which is maybe our most consistent – and maybe best – red wine. How can it finish second to last?

Pinot noir is about the only one that makes sense to me…we make some great pinot here, although a lot of thin, insipid stuff too.

So what’s up?

Well, I think I know the answer, and it is simple. Taste is relative, and reputation plays a big role. For the average wine drinker names like “Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay” are well known, so that is what they buy, whether it is good or not.

And…I guess…that is okay. Certainly, if that is what most people like, then they should get what they want.

But my heart actually aches for what people are missing. Some of our small producers make stunning wines for the “other varietals” – and even outstanding wines of the popular ones that taste nothing like the everyday Cabernets and Merlots – and few people will ever taste them. I know these producers probably don’t care, because they sell all of their wines to wine dweebs like me.

But I can’t help wish that everyone knew how good these wines were!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Vintage – Does it Really Matter?

September 18, 2014

Interesting article in the weekend paper regarding whether the vintage of a wine really matters all that much. The answer has always been a no brainer to me – duh, yes! – but after further thought…

Now don’t get me wrong. I think vintage can be critical in wine areas with big variations in climate. Sun, rain, temperature – the right mix is critical. If the fruit isn’t ripe, you just can’t make a great wine (and sometimes not even a good one).

Here in BC, we are coming off a string of good weather vintages, but 2011 did not have good weather, and you can taste it in many of the red wines. They are thin, a bit green, too tannic for the fruit.

Interestingly, though, my favourite producers fared way better! La Frenz, Blue Mountain, Kettle Valley, Nichol – all of their best wines were still very good. Is the fruit a bit lighter than usual? In some of them, perhaps. But it is still ripe, a real credit to the winemakers. And for some – like the La Frenz Merlot and Grand Total Reserve – the wines were amazing, and hard to distinguish from other vintages.

I put it down to winemaking, style and quality of grapes. If you have those, I think you can overcome almost anything (short of no sun or all rain, of course!).

I do have a beef with vintage variation in these kinds of areas, however, and that is around price! Bordeaux is the perfect example. While I am not a fan – in general – with that style of wine, what I get more vexed about is how in ‘lesser’ vintages the prices don’t change very much! Surely a lower quality wine should cost less…but that rarely happens.

What I respect much more is when some producers actually don’t make a wine, or else ‘declassify’ it into a less prestigious (and expensive) version. Now that makes sense!

Another vintage question I thought about was the regions with much more constant weather. Australia? Southern California? Even the south of France? One would think that it shouldn’t matter from year to year, at least as much?

In general, my experience is “yes”. But, again, my favourite wineries seem to always make better wines regardless, although lesser producers — or perhaps more producers – make more better wines in better years (if that is grammatically correct).

So, in the end, does vintage matter?

My answer is still ‘yes’, but with a big caveat. The best winemakers can still make good wine (at least) in a so called ‘bad’ year. So look for that. But the rest? Buyer beware!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

The 2014 BC Pinot Noir Celebration – Who was There…and Who Should Have Been!

September 11, 2014

I saw some recent coverage of the second BC Pinot Noir ‘showcase, and thought it would make an interesting blog topic. Not so much who was there, but who wasn’t!

But first a little background on the event itself. As per the Facebook page…”The celebration aims to bring together passionate Pinot Noir producers in the province in an interactive and fun atmosphere – giving guests an intimate experience with our winemakers and winery principals whilst building education and excitement about BC Pinot Noir.”

Hmm…kind of new age, but in general I think the concept is a great one! Pinot Noir is one of the greatest – and most controversial – red wine grapes there is – it isn’t called the ‘heartbreak grape’ for nothing! It is the grape of Burgundy, of course, where it is made into some of the most expensive wines in the world. Some Grand Crus from producers like Romani Conti and Leroy can easily approach $1000 a bottle! California also makes great Pinot, with cult producers like Marcassin and Kistler selling their small production wines for hundreds of dollars a bottle.

Style wise, Pinot can be range from quite herbal and tannic to being so fruity (in Oregon and California, for example) that it is almost candied. “Burgundian” is one descriptor, usually meaning black cherries mixed with herbs, earth and mushrooms. “Californian” is the opposite, emphasizing super-ripe red and black cherries with a touch of spice. That variation in style — as well price and quality – is how Pinot earned its reputation.

But I have digressed…what about BC’s Pinot and this year’s showcase?

Well, it was hosted by Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna and also included Meyer Family, CedarCreek, Quail’s Gate, Howling Bluff, Blue Mountain, Liquidity, Black Cloud, Summerhill, Spierhead, Mission Hill, 50th Parallel, Averill Creek, Orofino, Lake Breeze and Carson.

A quick look at this list shows a number of things. First, the bigger wineries are there in force – Mission Hill, CedarCreek and Quail’s Gate. Of those, only Quail’s Gate has a strong reputation for Pinot, although Mission Hill’s Martin Lane bottling caused quite a stir last year when it won a bunch of rewards.

Second, there are others on the list I haven’t even heard of – like Black Cloud, Liquidity and Carson.

Finally, there are those who I consider established leaders in BC Pinot Noir. Blue Mountain tops that list, as their Striped Label/Reserve Pinot Noir has almost a cult following. And for good reason – it drinks beautifully on release, but can age for 8 – 10 years in good vintages. It is a great Burgundy/Cali cross, and arguably BC’s best Pinot.

Averill Creek is up in that stratosphere too. Andy Johnston makes amazing wine on the slopes of Duncan[s Mt Prevost – on Vancouver Island of all places! It, too, can age and develop, although for lightly less time, and is quite Burgundian in nature

Finally, Howling Bluff is the new kid on the block in this group. Luke Smith has had success and awards (including the 2006 Lieutenant Governor’s award) for his Burgundy style Pinot that starts out lean and tight but can blossom into a thing of beauty.

So who wasn’t there that should have been?

Well, the obvious one is Kettle Valley. Their Hayman Vineyard is the truest expression of Burgundy in BC, and vies with Blue Mountain for the best in BC. It can age for 8 – 10 years, at which time it is almost identical to a Premier Cru Burgundy. Their Reserve is no slouch either – a little more Cali in Style, but that isn’t a bad thing.

Eau Vivre, a Similkameen winery, is also missing. Back to back LG awards for their $20 Pinot Noir (yes, that price is correct) were justified given the earthy, spicy, black cherry infused wine.

I would also add two more to the mix. La Frenz gets press for its whites, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (as well as deserved recognition for being the best overall winery in BC), but the quality of their Reserve Pinot Noir has grown by leaps and bounds. The 2012 is stunning!

Finally, I would add in Nk Mip’s Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir. I have had a number of vintages of this Cali clone and they are gorgeous.

So why aren’t they there?

Probably lots of good reasons. Not enough wine is one – there are less than 100 cases of the Hayman, only a few more of the Kettle Valley Reserve, and Eau Vivre’s is already sold out.

“Don’t need to be” is another. These wines sell out from the winery anyway, so why ‘give them away at a tasting?

And last, but not least…is maybe “don’t want to be”. The wine trade is full of politics and marketing, and competitions even more so. Words like “best” and “great” get thrown around very easily, too often fueled by who spends the most money on marketing.

The wineries I have identified as the best Pinot Noir makers are well known to wine dweebs like me and, given that, why show up – and put up – with all the bull#$%$%?

But don’t let that stop you from trying them…if you can get a hold of a bottle or two!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

THE 2014 SB WINE AWARDS – PART 2

July 24, 2014

Okay, part two of the 2014 SB Wine Awards – the red wines!

While I won’t provide reviews for these wines, I will give you some context, as the vintages covered here were quite a bit different and had an impact on the red wines (more so than the white wines).

There are a couple of 2010s here, which were late releases. 2010 was a good year for BC wines in Okanagan, with no real rain problems. 2011, however, was the opposite! I heard from many producers over the last year or so what a challenge it was that year, with cool temperatures and lots of rain. As a result, many red wines were unripe, showing green, woody flavours and not a lot of ripe fruit. So kudos to the producers who made good wines from that year!

The early released 2012’s show what a ripe vintage it was (something the whites showed last year), and the couple of 2013s…well, next year’s releases should be staggering, let’s just put it that way!

So here it goes with the reds! For tasting notes, you can either check out the tweets from my recent trip to the Okanagan (follow me @sbwinepage), or my new BC Wine Guide, which has tasting notes for past vintages of many of these wines as well (www.sbwinesite.com).

Syrah
• 2010 Marichel ($40)
• 2011 Nichol Vineyards ($34)
• 2011 Burrowing Owl ($30)
• 2012 Moraine ($25)
• 2010 Mt. Lehman ($25)
• 2011 Moon Curser ($25)
• 2012 Perseus ($20)
Pinot Noir
• 2011 Blue Mountain Reserve ($36)
• 2011 Kettle Valley Hayman ($33)
• 2011 Kettle Valley Reserve ($33)
• 2012 La Frenz Reserve ($32)
• 2010 Averill Creek ($26)
• 2012 Eau Vivre ($20)
Merlot
• 2011 & 2012 La Frenz ($26)
• 2011 Cassini Cellars ($18)
Marechal Foch
• 2012 Quail’s Gate Old Vines ($25)
• 2013 Lang ($19)
Bordeaux Blend
• 2011 Laughing Stock Portfolio ($42)
• 2011 La Frenz Grand Total ($40)
• 2011 Moon Curser Border Vines ($25)
Miscellaneous
• 2011 & 2012 La Frenz Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)
• 2011 Church & State Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
• 2012 Moraine Malbec ($25)

There you go! Another shopping list for you!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

BURGUNDY vs PINOT NOIR

April 23, 2014

Okay…seems like an oxy-moron for a title, right? After all, Burgundy — at least red Burgundy — is made from Pinot Noir.

So what’s up?

Well, after drinking a 15 year old Premier Cru Burgundy with Easter dinner this past week (the ’99 Maranges ‘Clos Roussot ‘ by Doudet-Naudin), it left me wondering about the relationship between the grape and how it expresses itself.

I admit to not drinking a lot of Burgundy. It is expensive – sometimes frighteningly so – and can be extremely variable in quality. I have had a few great ones over my wine lifetime (the memories of an ’83 Echezeaux and ’83 Clos de la Roche still bring tears to my eyes), but also more than a few disappointments.

The flavours are also not always in my style. Earth, herbs and mushrooms often dominate the dark cherries, and cedar/oak can sneak in, along with strong tannins when the wines are young. If and when the tannins resolve and everything comes together, Burgundy can be amazing (as in the above wines), but it can also taste dried out to me.

Before I go further, I should say I enjoyed the Maranges! While still tannic and not on the fruit-forward side, it was complex and in amazing shape for 15 years old. It also went extremely well with the prosciutto, goat cheese and pesto stuffed leg of lamb I prepared!

But I couldn’t help compare it in my mind to the new world Pinot Noirs from California, Oregon and here in BC. Ripe red and black cherry fruit can explode out of the glass, along with tantalizing vanilla overtones (can you tell I like it?). True, some can be almost too ripe, taking on an almost candied taste. But the best – like Kettle Valley’s Hayman Vineyard and Blue Mountain’s Reserve – add in enough earthy/herbal and even mushroom flavours to make them very complex, particularly after 5 – 8 years.

I bet if you served a good Burgundy blind next to one of these wines, the average wine drinker would think they are made from completely different grapes.

I’m not saying one is better than the other (although my guess is more people would pick the new world version).

The point is how different they taste and what that means for what people expect when they buy ‘Pinot Noir’.

The wineries in Burgundy have been making that style for over a thousand years and — after Bordeaux – it might be the wine world’s most respected wine. So I am definitely not saying they should change!

But what does that mean for modern consumers, most of whom will never be able to taste the best wines from Burgundy, and instead may judge them based on average –or less than average — versions?

In their minds, I think the definition of ‘Pinot Noir’ will be what comes out of the new world. And that may have interesting consequences – including for Burgundy producers – should they then proceed to Burgundy in the future

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

EASTER WINES TO HAVE WITH HAM, LAMB…OR SPAM!

April 16, 2014

Easter this weekend, and many will be looking for a wine – or wines – serve to family at a holiday meal. Everyone knows that the food plays a big role in picking the wine, so I thought I would offer some ideas on what to serve with some of the favourite Easter foods – ham and lamb (the spam was just a marketing gimmick to get your attention).

With ham, it really depends on how you are going to serve it. It is usually on the sweet side, with maple or sugar or any of those kinds of coatings, I would actually go for a white wine that also is a touch sweet. Rieslings or Gewurztraminers are great choices, even if they have just a touch of residual sugar, because they have big enough body – and enough fruit – to handle both the sweetness of the glaze and the meatiness of the ham. Germany and Alsace (from France) make the best ones, but if you have/come across the Small Lots by La Frenz from BC go for it! It is an amazing wine and, at about $20, a ridiculous bargain!

Wines for lamb follow the same kind of strategy, although there are savoury options as well. If it is a very “English” mint jelly kind of lamb, stick with the Riesling. But if you are going with the more French version – with mustard, rosemary and other herbs – there are lots of great red wine options!

Pinot Noir is one, especially if you can find one that has earthy and mushroom undertones to match the flavours in the lamb. Burgundy is the traditional place to go, but that can be very expensive and, frankly, unreliable (if I had a dollar for every expensive but disappointing red Burgundy I have had, I would be a rich man!). California can also be a source of good Pinot Noir, but – ironically – the ripeness of many of the wines can work against the lamb combo, with the almost candied cherry flavours coming off as too sweet for the meat and the flavoring.

My recommendation is from BC again – for some very special wines! Kettle Valley makes two of them – the Hayman Vineyard and the Reserve. The former is very “Burgundian”, with ripe dark cherry fruit but nice earth and mushrooms to go with it. The latter is a little more Californian, but still works. The other option is from Blue Mountain. Their Reserve Pinot Noir is a great Burgundy/Cali cross, especially as it ages! All these wines can be tough to find because they aren’t made in big quantities, but worth looking for. Other options almost as good include Pinot Noirs from Eau Vivre, Howling Bluff, Averill Creek and NkMip.

If not Pinot Noir, though, go for a Grenache-based wine from the Cotes du Rhone. The inherent lavender/rosemary aromas – called “garrigue” – are perfectly suited for lamb, as are the ripe but dried cherry flavours. Chateauneuf du Pape with six to eight years of age is a great bet, especially if it is from a first rate producer like Beaucastel, Clos du Papes or Le Vieux Donjon. But a younger Cotes du Rhone from a great vintage like 2010 or 2012 also will work.

And if spam is the Easter meal of choice? Well, if you are not drinking beer…pick the best wine you can find! It will make you forget about the food you are eating.

Happy Easter!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

MUSINGS ON THE 2014 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL

March 5, 2014

Well, it is over for another year…and what a festival it was once again! While it is fresh in my mind, here are my key observations of the 2014 Vancouver International Wine Festival.

1. Chateau de Beaucastel Dinner

My festival started with the Beaucastel dinner at Pastis restaurant, and it was a very good – but not great – start. Very good because the food was excellent, the guest – Monsieur Perrin from Chateau de Beaucastel – wonderful, and most of the wines very nice.

But it stopped short of being great because of the showcase wine – the 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape. First of all, it wasn’t decanted (much to the chagrin of many patrons, some of whom ended up with a lot of sediment in their glasses). More importantly, however, there was significant bottle variation – my glass was completely oxidized! And with no extra wine, that left me with – literally – an empty glass (I can’t drink oxidized wine) and a less than satisfactory experience.

2. Chapoutier Tasting

Interestingly, it was kind of the same experience at the Chapoutier tasting. I went because it featured a number of great wines (including two red Hermitages, which are among my favourite wines). And the fact that Monsieur Chapoutier was there was a bonus!

Again, most of the wines were very good. White Hermitage is not my style, but there was nothing wrong with the version they poured. And the 2010 Hermitage Monier La Sizeranne was amazing! But the showcase wine of the night – the 2010 Ermitage le Meal – was again a disappointment. It wasn’t “off” this time, but just didn’t have the concentration of fruit I would expect from a 98+ wine.

3. International Tastings

As always, however, the international tasting event was outstanding! France was the featured country and some of the 2011 Chateauneufs really surprised me. While lighter than the 2010s or the 2012s, they are still nicely ripe – I tasted no greenness! If there was a criticism, it was that they were a little tannic, but they were also young.

A small contingent of BC wines also had a couple of stellar showings. Blue Mountain poured their 2009 Brut Rose, which would blow away most Rose Champagnes. Tantalus’s Old Vine Riesling was also very good, showing a classic Alsace style. And Averill Creek’s Pinot Noirs – both the regular bottling and the reserve – were outstanding!

Other highlights were a couple of 2009 Barolos from Damilano, the 2011 Cotes du Roussilon Bila Haut Lapidem by Chapoutier, 2009 Cote Roties from Delas Freres and Durvernay, the 2010 Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert by Jaboulet and a 2011 Vintage Port by Warres.

All in all, then, another great festival, and kudos to the organizers! I can hardly wait for next year.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com