Posts Tagged ‘Cassini Cellars’

The Okanagan Wineries you REALLY Want to Visit

April 13, 2016

Okay, that time of the year again. Spring, which means wineries are putting out new releases and opening up their tasting rooms!

It also means the so called wine experts are starting to write about “where to go” to taste wine. And, as usual in BC, for some reason some of the best wineries are getting left off that list!

So here you go…based on my experience tasting BC wines since the breakthrough 1998 vintage, these are the Okanagan wineries that you want to go to, and the wines you want to taste there!

1. Naramata

Start here or finish here, doesn’t matter…this is the best wine region not only in the Okanagan, but in BC. Once there, you should check out:
* La Frenz (for all wines, as it is the best winery in Canada)
* Kettle Valley (for Pinot Noirs)
* Nichol (for Syrah)
* Marichel (for Syrah)
* Moraine (for Syrah, Pinot Noir and Riesling)
* Howling Bluff (for Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir)

2. Similkameen

Still a bit unknown, and not a lot of wineries, but do check out Eau Vivre (world class Pinot Noir, plus Malbec) and Orofino (amazing Cali style Syrah, plus Pinot Noir and Riesling).

3. South Okanagan

The Osoyoos/Oliver region is the area most well known, and the one the big critics like. But it doesn’t have the best wineries. There are some very good ones, however, so check out:
* Blue Mountain (actually in Okanagan Falls, but worth the trip, as with Kettle Valley, the best Pinot Noirs in BC)
* Church and State (Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
* Burrowing Owl (Syrah)
* Moon Curser (Syrah, Bordeaux blend)
* Cassini Cellars (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay)
* Nk Mip (Pinot Noir, Syrah)

There you go…you can do these wineries in 2 days if you like. My wine guide can show you how!

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

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!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

How Much Should Certain Wines Cost?

October 17, 2013

I was walking through a wine store the other day (what a surprise, eh?), and found myself shaking my head at the prices — but only in certain sections. So that got me to thinking about my perceptions of what certain wines should cost and how that effects whether I buy them or not.

Let’s start with South America, and Chile first. My first experience with Chilean wines was with the cheap/good value wines of the late ’80s, and I found that was still my expectation. Under $15 is what comes to mind…as well as lots of ripe fruit. But now? Try finding a fruity Chilean red wine for under $20.

Staying in South America, what about Malbec? I love that grape, which can make super ripe wines with lots of black fruit, almost like Zinfandel. I’m not thrilled with the oaked varieties, but the ones without it can be really nice. But price? Again, should be around $15. And yet you look at $25, $30, even $50 Malbecs…I won’t even try them for my cellar!

Next – and just so you know it has nothing to do with the “newer” wine regions – is Beaujolais from France. When I first got into wine, Beaujolais was one of my “go to” wines. Not the “Nouveau” stuff, but the 13 Crus (like Morgon, Moulin a Vent, etc). They were wonderful wines, many almost Burgundy like, and none of them over $22 or $23. But now? There are $40+ Beaujolais!! Fuggetaboutit!

Last, but not least, is BC wine (like you didn’t know this was coming). Now, anybody who reads this blog knows that I am one of the biggest boosters of wine from my home province. But some of the prices – ridiculous! There is definitely quality here, particularly among some of the smaller producers. But, really, there are very few BC wines that are worth more than $30 a bottle (Kettle Valley’s Reserve and Hayman Pinot Noirs, Nichol’s Syrahs, Marichel’s Syrah, Blue Mountain’s Reserve Pinot Noir), but most of the rest – nope! Sorry, but if La Frenz can make the quality red – and white – wines it does for $20 – $30, and wineries like Cassini Cellars, Howling Bluff, Eau Vivre, Moon Curser and Mt. Lehman can make outstanding wines for even less than that, there just is no reason for BC wines to be expensive.

To conclude, I want to be clear – if wines show they are “worth it”, I don’t have a problem if they charge more. And California is the perfect example of wine regions that have evolved over the past 30 years to demonstrate they are as good as any in the world, and therefore are able to justify world class prices.

But the rest? Give your head a shake. It may only be perception, but perception is also reality. And some wines just shouldn’t be expensive.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

To VQA or not VQA – is that the Question?

August 15, 2013

Back from a week or so off, and during that time I read an interesting article in one of the newspapers about the sale of VQA wines in BC, which are apparently declining. For those outside the province, VQA stands for Vintners Quality Alliance, and is a program that was brought in a number of years ago to increase the standards of wine in Canada. There are strict regulations involved in making a “VQA” wine, as well as costs to the wineries to participate.

The story was more about the costs and whether they were worth it…but I am not going to get into that! Instead, I thought I would look at what I consider to be the best BC wines and see which are VQA and which aren’t. That might give some indication about whether VQA and quality go hand in hand.

When I wrote them all down, the results were a bit amazing!

My favorite overall winery – La Frenz – doesn’t make any VQA wines – white, red, rose or sweet (all 18 of them). And, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I think they make both the highest quality and best value wines in BC.

When it comes to Pinot Noir, three of my favorites – Blue Mountain Reserve, Kettle Valley Hayman and Kettle Valley – are also not VQA, and I consider them to be the best Pinots in BC. However, three relative newcomers – Eau Vivre from the Similkameen Valley, Howling Bluff from Naramata and Averill Creek from Vancouver Island, are all VQA (with the wines of the first two being multiple Lieutenant Governor Award Winners).

A similar situation exists for Syrah. My favourite Syrah – from Nichol Vineyards – isn’t VQA. But other very good Syrahs from the Okanagan (Burrowing Owl, Church and State, Cassini Cellars, Hillside, Marichel and Moon Curser) are VQA, as is the one from Mt. Lehman in Abbotsford.

Finally, while La Frenz’s white wines are not VQA, many others I consider to be very good are, including the Semillon/Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris from Howling Bluff, the Chardonnay from Cassini Cellars, the “Afraid of the Dark” Rhone blend from Moon Curser and the Viognier from Mt. Lehman.

So what does this tell us about the relationship between quality and the VQA designation?

Well, I can’t see anything conclusive here; quality can be found on both sides of the argument. It does seem interesting, however, that what I consider to be the absolute best wines in BC – the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and white wines from La Frenz; Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir; Hayman and Reserve Pinot Noir from Kettle Valley; and Syrah from Nichol – are not VQA. So that certainly seems to point to the fact that you don’t need to be VQA to be of the highest quality!

Conversely, it also seems to point out that VQA should not be seen as some kind of guarantee of a great wine.

So my final advice on this is to taste and make up your mind – and not let any designation influence what you think is good!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

OKANAGAN SOUTH WINE TOUR

June 14, 2013

For most folks, BC wine country is the southern Okanagan, meaning Oliver and Osoyoos off of Highway 97 South. But don’t forget one other winery up at Okanagan Falls as well; you have to backtrack and/or make a detour for it, but it well worth the trip.

1. Blue Mountain

Yes, this is the one you have to backtrack for! And, yes, you can’t taste their best wine there, because the Reserve Pinot Noir sells out in a few hours upon release. But Blue Mountain is still well worth the effort, both for the beautiful drive through the vines (you will think you are in California) and the chance to taste some of their other very good wines.

White, red and sparkling are usually available for tasting and I recommend all of them. Chardonnay and Pinot Gris (regular and, sometimes, the Reserves) for the whites, Pinot Noir and Gamay (the latter perhaps the best in the province) for the reds and the best non-vintage sparkling wine as well.

Even though the Reserve Pinot Noir isn’t available to taste, a few words about it. You need to get on the mailing list for this beauty and then act quickly to get some of what is – along with Kettle Valley’s Hayman Vineyard – the best Pinot Noir in BC. A wine that tastes like California when young and Burgundy as it ages, it is just beautiful, full of dark cherry fruit, spice and earthy overtones. I like it best after 2 – 3 years in the bottle, but it drinks beautifully on release as well. And, in good vintages, it can age 8 – 10 years.

My other favourite wines at Blue Mountain are the sparkling ones, both non-vintage and vintage. The former – they make both a Brut and Brut Rose – are classic Cava-style sparklers, with ripe green apples (for the regular Brut) and strawberries (for the Rose). Both are medium bodied and bone dry, with beautiful, small bubbles. I haven’t tried to age them, but they are great on release and will impress any sparkling wine lover, especially for about $25.

The vintage Brut Rose, Brut and Blanc de Blanc aren’t always available, but are worth purchasing for those who like Champagne style sparklers. I have had the 2008, 2006 and 2005, respectively, and they would easily compete with Champagnes that are more than twice the price! You get that toasty/yeasty component characteristic of real Champagne, with the fruit older and complex. Definitely special occasion wines, and at less than $50, they easily rival real Champagne that costs $20 or $30 more.

2. Church and State

Okay, now it’s just down Highway 97 towards Oliver and Osoyoos, tasting along the way! First up on the eastern side of the highway is Church and State winery. The headquarters is actually based on Vancouver Island, but the majority of their vines – and best wines – come from the Coyote Bowl site in Oliver. A brand new, fancy tasting room is evidence of the winery’s success, which recently included “Wine of the Year” for their 2009 Coyote Bowl Syrah.

There are three different levels of wines to taste – Coyote Bowl, Church & State and Church Mouse (in descending order of quality and price). For whites, there are Rhone varietals as well as Chardonnays; I like the latter, made in a Cali-style. For reds, a full spectrum of Bordeaux varieties and blends, as well as Pinot Noir and Syrah. May favourites are the Coyote Bowl Syrah, C&S Hollenbach Pinot Noir and the Coyote Bowl Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Coyote Bowl Syrah is made in a Rhone style with smoky, peppery black cherries, this is the wine that made C&S famous when the 2009 won Wine of the Year in Canada. While not as good as the Nichol Syrah (and on par with the Burrowing Owl), it is still a very good wine for medium term drinking.

The Hollenbach Pinot Noir is made in the Cali-style, with ripe red cherries, earth and a touch of spice. It is smooth and medium bodied, meant for consumption over the first few years. At $27 it is more expensive than Eau Vivre, but cheaper than reference points like Kettle Valley and Blue Mountain. Quality wise it lags behind all of these, but the price is fair compared to California.

Finally, the Coyote Bowl Cabernet Sauvignon is actually more Bordeaux in style than California, although much riper (which is why I like it). Black currants, vanilla, herbs and cedar are the flavor components, and it can be a bit tannic when young, developing over 3 – 5 years. At $35 it is getting up there in price, but for the style it is price competitive with wines that are $10 – $20+ more.

3. Cassini Cellars

This winery on the west side of the highway was a revelation on my last trip to the Okanagan! Not only did the quality of their wines blow me away, but the prices had come down, making them extremely competitive. A big, spacious tasting room makes for a nice visit as well.

A full range of whites are available, including two Chardonnays (oaked and unoaked), Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat. I really like the Reserve Chardonnay, which is made in that classic buttery California style. For reds, there are the Bordeaux varieties and blends, Pinot Noirs (two of them) and a Syrah. All are worth tasting, although my favourites are the Syrah and Merlot (the latter sees little or no oak, is incredibly fruity and, at $18.95, may be the best BC red wine value!).

The Syrah, given the combination of quality and price (under $30), makes it a great choice for buying and drinking over a 4 – 5 year period. Very French, with peppery black cherries and a touch of licorice, it is ripe and shows little or no oak overtones. It sells out quickly though!

The Merlot is no herbal/mocha Merlot – instead, the dark plums literally jump out of the glass and there is almost no oak (half of the wine is aged in stainless steel). For drinking over the first few years of its life for its freshness, and even available in BC government liquor stores!

Finally, the Reserve Chardonnay isn’t cheap at $29, but the fruit is buttery, ripe but not sweet, medium bodied and has a great mouth feel. Drink it over the first few years to make sure the oak doesn’t get it!

4. Burrowing Owl

One of the most iconic (and beautiful) BC wineries, and the one that first showed me how good our red wines could be with the 1998 Merlot (which is still the best BC wine I have ever tasted!). Although the style of the red wines has changed since then – moving more towards Bordeaux and away from California – it is still a place worth visiting, tasting and – for the Syrah – buying!

A full range of red Bordeaux varietals are available for tasting here, although over the years I tend to focus on the Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (the Cabernet Franc and Meritage have become too herbal and tannic for me). For the whites, the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are both nice and still fairly reasonable priced.

The one wine that I recommend year in, year out, for buying at Burrowing Owl is the Syrah. It is make in that Rhone style, with peppery black cherries and an intriguing smokiness on the nose. The fruit is ripe but not jammy, and while it drinks nicely on release, it can develop in the bottle over 4 – 6 years as well.

5. Moon Curser

A relative newcomer to the BC wine scene, the former Twisted Tree Vineyards winery is producing reasonably priced, good quality red and white wines, including some intriguing white Rhone varietals you don’t usually see in the province. The winery is conveniently located just outside of Osoyoos, making for a quick and easy visit and tasting experience.

Stylistically, I prefer more of the Moon Curser red wines, specifically the Syrah, Malbec and Border Vines (their Bordeaux blend). The whites are worth tasting as well, although I am not a huge fan of Rhone varietals like Roussanne and Marsanne because of their resiny overtones. Having said that, the blend “Afraid of the Dark” – which mixes these varietals with Chardonnay – is both fruity and refreshing

The Syrah, at $25, offers excellent price/quality ratio here for a Rhone-style Syrah that features pepper, black cherries and more tannin than is normally found in this varietal. But there is also little or no wood evident and enough ripe fruit to let it develop for 4 – 5 years.

The Border Vines is the same price and offers the same value proposition, although it is perhaps even more impressive to me because it is a Bordeaux blend that is riper – and way cheaper – than most. Look for black currants here, plus some wood and herbs, but not enough of the latter to overwhelm the fruit. It is a bit tannic when young, so either decant for an hour or so, or give it a couple of years in the cellar.

6. Nk’Mip

Last but not least is Nk’Mip, a First Nations winery in Osoyoos that has made major strides in quality over the past few years to add to it’s great price structure. It is well worth a visit for both the white and red wines and – like Moon Curser – is conveniently located just outside of downtown Osoyoos.

I like both the Chardonnay and Riesling for the white wines, both attractively priced (at around $20) for regular drinking and widely available in BC Government liquor stores. Pinot Noir and Syrah are my picks for the reds, as the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Meritage are more Bordeaux in style (although a new, more inexpensive blend called Talon was riper). There is the regular line of varietals, as well as reserve wines labeled Qwam Qmpt, which are the ones I buy for my cellar.

The Qwam Qmpt Pinot Noir, at $30, is a beautiful California style Pinot Noir that combines vanilla from the oak barrels with ripe red cherry fruit. Enjoyable on release, it also seems to age well from 3 – 4 years.

The same can be said of the Qwam Qmpt Syrah ($30), although I have only had a couple of vintages of this wine. Made in the classic Rhone style with peppery, black cherries and little or no obvious oak. Again, enjoyable on release but seems to age well for a few years.

Finally, the Qwam Qmpt Chardonnay ($25) is very well priced for reserve Chardonnay made in the Cali style. It has lovely buttery/vanilla citrus fruit, a luscious mouth feel and creamy finish. Not for long term cellaring, but it is gorgeous on release.

****

So there you have it – 6 wineries from the heart of BC’s Okanagan wine country to visit. There are many more along the way, but if you tight for time and/or looking for an efficient way to “do” wine country, you won’t be disappointed with these choices.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

MOTHER’S DAY WINES

May 10, 2013

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and while my Mom passed away long ago, I think about her every day…and the wines she might want to have with a special brunch, lunch or dinner! So here are a few for your consideration – bubbles, pink, white and red!

Bubbles

It’s hard to go wrong with sparkling wine for any meal on Mother’s Day (even breakfast, if you mix in a little fruit juice!). For those on a budget, my “go to” wine remains the Segura Viudas Non Vintage Brut. This classic Spanish cava is full of crisp, green apples while still completely dry. And it is a bargain at about $16. For a BC version, the best remains Blue Mountain’s Non Vintage Brut or Brut Rose. At $24.95 (available from the winery or private stores), it is a step in quality but has the same cava aromas and flavours. Finally, if you want real Champagne, you can’t go wrong with Bollinger, the favourite wine of James Bond! Although expensive (even the Non Vintage Brut is $70 – $80), that yeasty, toasty style just exudes “special occasion”.

Pink

Rose is another good option for Mom, especially if the weather is already warm. There are two general kinds, and I prefer the ones with a little residual sugar (that leaves them just a touch off dry). The best in BC is from La Frenz – it is usually full of super ripe strawberries and red grapefruit, about as good a patio experience as you can find. Another option, more widely available, is from Quail’s Gate, which is not quite as fruity but made in the same style. Chill until very cold and then serve on the deck all day long!

White

The white wine I remember my Mom liking was a Premier Cru Meursault from Burgundy (on the rare occasions I could afford to serve it!). A couple of more reasonable – and available – options, though, come from California and B.C. One of the benchmarks for Cali-style Chardonnay (meaning vanilla/butter covered citrus, luscious mouth feel and medium body) is Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnay. Not cheap – at $45 – $50 – it is still worth it, an incredibly indulgent wine that is great on its own or with rich sauces. From BC, the recent Reserve Chardonnays from La Frenz are also made in this style (at $32), as are those from Cassini Cellars ($29) and Nk’Mip (the Qwam Qmpt for $30).

Red

For red, a couple of options. I’m not sure if my Mom liked Pinot Noir (she preferred bigger red wines), but it is always a popular option. I would stay away from Burgundy because of cost and quality variability, and go to BC instead. Kettle Valley (Hayman and Reserve) and Blue Mountain (Reserve) make the best in BC – they are full of red and black cherries, spice and earth. While not cheap (at $35 – $40) or widely available (the winery or private wine stores), they are definitely special occasion wines.

The other option – which I know my Mom liked – was Zinfandel, and not the pink kind! Go for the best if you are going to serve this super ripe wine full of blackberry jam and herbs, which means Ridge Vineyards in California. My two favourites are the Lytton Springs and Geyserville, both of which are predominantly Zinfandel and about $50 a bottle. You won’t need more than a glass or two, as they tend to be higher in alcohol, but are a great drinking experience.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all out there!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better

February 21, 2013

Interesting piece in Business in Vancouver this week….a list of the biggest BC wineries! But as I scanned down the list — and saw who was on, and who wasn’t — it struck me once again that “bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better”!

Now don’t get me wrong — I understand how these lists work. In this case, the wineries were ranked by sales volumes, so the bigger you are/the more you sell/the higher up on the list you end up. Vice versa, if you are smaller/don’t have as much wine to sell, then you aren’t going to make it. Same thing if you don’t want to supply this info to BIV.

And I also acknowledge the positive role that the larger wineries play in helping promote BC wine in general. Without their advertising and marketing budgets, the profile of the industry in the province wouldn’t be what it is today!

However, all of this doesn’t mean these wineries make the best wine.

A look at the list quickly shows that. Yes, there was NkMip (which makes nice Pinot Noirs), Laughing Stock (with its good but increasingly expensive Portfolio), Black Hills (ditto re the Nota Bene) and even Tantalus (which makes great Riesling).

But nowhere to be found were what many believe to be the wineries producing the best BC wines – La Frenz (best overall winery by a mile for reds and whites), Nichol (best Syrah), Kettle Valley and Blue Mountain, who make the best Pinot Noirs (Hayman, Reserve and Striped Label, respectively). Smaller wineries like Marichel, Howling Bluff, Cassini Cellars, Moon Curser, Eau Vivre, Averill Creek (from Vancouver Island) and even Mt Lehman (from the Fraser Valley) are also not there.

The problem with all of these exclusions is that for folks who don’t know wine, they may assume that the “biggest are the best”. And that would be a shame, especially if it meant people didn’t search out and find some of these other wineries.

Before concluding, I want to emphasize that size and quantity doesn’t always mean lower quality. Washington winery Columbia Crest makes hundreds of thousands of cases a year, and yet some of their lowest price wines are great bargains. Beringer, from California, makes even more wine, and I just had a bottle of their entry level Cabernet that was incredible (and amazingly cheap)!

But in BC, anyway, things are different. If you want ‘big’, go to the list. If you want the best, however, check out some of the wineries I noted above!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOLIDAY SHOPPING FOR BC WINES!

December 12, 2012

Okay, second last wine blog of the year, and let’s focus on the best BC wines that are currently available in the government liquor stores.

Reds first this time, starting with what may be the best BC red wine value since the 1998 Tinhorn Creek Merlot. It’s another Merlot, although this time from Cassini Cellars, and what an amazing wine! Purple, super ripe – but not jammy – black plums, a touch of earth and herbs, and no oak in sight anywhere. Incredible wine, and for $17.99, a ridiculous value as well.

For a couple of bucks more, a nice Pinot Noir from one of BC’s most consistent wineries. Nk Mip Cellars makes very nice Pinot Noir, year in, year out, and the 2010 is no exception. Look for a Cali/Burgundy cross here from a style perspective – lots of ripe, red cherry fruit, but also earth, spice and a bit of mushroom. At less than $20, this wine would give many Pinots from around the world a serious run for their money.

Finally, a Bordeaux blend. Now, nobody faint – I know they are not my style of wine. But this one – from Moon Curser – is very nice, and nicely priced! The 2010 Border Vines is a mix of all the usual grapes, but much riper than most of these kinds of wines. It shows black currants, oak and cedar, but the former is equal to the latter, making it very nice to drink. And that is the case both now and for the future, as there are some tannins here that will allow it to age and develop for 3 – 5 years. It’s $24.99 – compare that to $45+++, and you will see the value!

So what about white wines? Well, Quail’s Gate once again gives us a nice dry Riesling, which might be their best wine (next to the Marechal Foch). Bone dry, it has classic flinty, minerally, citrus fruit – crisp, medium bodied, and very nice to drink now. It is also very reasonably priced at $16.99.

Moon Curser grabs another recommendation for five bucks more with its 2010 Afraid of the Dark. This is a rarity for BC – a blend of white Rhone grape varietals, and it is a beauty. Avoiding the resiny taste that sometimes comes with these wines, it is dry, not too fruity, and surprisingly full-bodied. For $21.90 it competes well with other wines in that price category.

The final white is another new addition to the BC Liquor stores – the 2010 Alibi by Black Hills. Because of drastically increasing costs, this is the only wine I can still recommend from the winery (the red Nota Bene is over $53 now!!!). It is a gorgeous Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend, very much like a white Graves from Bordeaux. Look for a touch of oak, crisp, dry citrus, and medium body. At $24.90, it isn’t cheap, but its French cousins are more than twice that much, hence the value!

Finally, sweet and sparkling! For the latter, an amazing value given the style. The NV Brut by Neck of the Woods in Langley, B.C. tastes like a classic Champagne – toasty, yeasty, bone dry. Almost all wines of this style and quality are $50+++, so kudos to them for it!

Sweet wine recommendations are tougher in BC, but a fun one to try is actually made from fruit. In this case, its blackberries, and the NV Cowichan Blackberry by Cherry Point on Vancouver Island is like a good liqueur. A little goes a long way here, and it will do well at any holiday party!

So there is BC wines for the holidays! One more to go – my recommendations for Christmas Dinner next week.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com