Posts Tagged ‘Howling Bluff Winery’

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

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

2015 Victoria Wine Festival

September 23, 2015

I’m looking forward to my first trip to the Victoria Wine Festival. With family on Vancouver Island, we get there fairly often, and I try to ‘do’ the wineries once a year as well. But to date, I have been to their Festival.

And after scanning the wineries/wines, I am looking forward to it even more!

First and foremost, what a delightful surprise to see so many small, but great BC Wineries are going to be there! My tasting list will certainly include:

• Quail’s Gate – their Old Vines Marechal Foch is perhaps the best in BC, with rich, meaty flavours
• Moraine – a relative newcomer, Moraine is making great Rhone style Syrah, full of peppery, earthy cherries
• Howling Bluff – rapidly becoming the standard barrier for value-priced white wines, Luke’s
Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend is amazing, and his more expensive Pinot Noir shows great potential as well
in a Burgundy/Cali cross style
• Gray Monk – I stumbled across their sparkling rose (Odyssey Brut Rose) and was amazed at the fresh
strawberries in this wine
• Marichel – Richard is a Rhone-specialist! His Syrah is richer and riper than almost all others in Naramata
(think Aussie Shiraz without the jam) and his Viognier is old-school – floral, dry, with none of the fruit
cocktail flavours you get from many new world wines
• Perseus – another newcomer making great value wines, including a non-oaked Merlot that fairly bursts with
cherries and berries
• Eau Vivre – last but not least, this Similkameen Winery goes from success to success with its multiple award
winning Pinot Noir, which remains a steal at about $20!

With that list, I could spend a good part of my evening!

But it looks like there are other great wines to try as well. From France, I see Perrin’s Vacqueyras Le Christin, a Grenache blend from the southern Rhone that is accessible young but ages beautifully; it is an annual Robert Parker favourite, and I have multiple vintages in my cellar.

Italy is well represented with Barolos from Damilano, Altesino’s Brunello di Montalcino, and Amarones by La Dama. These are expensive wines and it is great to get a chance to taste them in this format! The challenge is deciding if there is enough fruit to survive the tannin…but I am up for it!

Finally, don’t forget California! Ravenswood has a couple of Zinfandels, which are classic blackberry bombs! Belle Glos’ single vineyard Pinot Noir is also there, which I have never tasted but heard good things about. And Stag’s Leaps’s Petite Sirah, usually a brooding giant of a red wine with years of aging in it.

Sparkling, white and red…that will be my tasting strategy, and I will try to tweet out my tasting notes in real time!

So stay tuned, and if you want more info about the event, check out the website at http://www.vicwf.com.

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

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

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 NEW SWEET SPOT – THE $20 WHITE WINE

August 13, 2014

With the great, hot summer here in B.C. we have been drinking a lot of white wine, way more than usual. A lot of it has been local, and very good indeed!

But as I look at the bills each time I pay for it, there has been another constant – almost all of these wines have been under $20. And that got me to wondering why that was the case.

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon/Sauvignon blends, Pinot Gris, Riesling, even most Viogniers – all at that price point. And that was the case whether the wines were made by La Frenz, Moraine, Howling Bluff, Marichel or Church and State. So what’s up?

Well, part of it might be oak – or, in fact, the lack of it. One thing all of these wines have in common is they are done in stainless steel, with little or no oak aging. Oak barrels are expensive, particularly if you use new oak, and that has to be passed on the purchaser.

Support for this argument includes the fact that there are no Chardonnays on this list. I could have added in Township 7 and Quinta Ferreira (both of which clock in at about $20), but they are not quite in the same class as some of these other wines. Similarly, the Ensemble by La Frenz – a white Bordeaux clone of oak aged Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – is gorgeous, but around $30.

So lack of oak is probably one reason for the $20 price point.

But I suspect there is another – winemakers (at lease in BC) have decided that $20 is what consumers are comfortable spending on a local white wine.

And by “comfortable”, I mean three things. First, that may be as high as paying customers will go. There are reserve BC whites that go higher than that, but they don’t seem to be as popular. Secondly, customers may well be thinking that anything less than $20 might mean the wine isn’t that good! And, given the selection under that figure, they are probably right.

There may also be one last reason. $20 might just be “the new $10”.

What do I mean by that? Well, when I got into wine almost 30 years ago, it seemed like everyone was looking for the $10 wine. And many producers – from Chile and Spain, in particular – were providing that. I can’t remember what the BC wine prices were then, because it was pre-free trade, and there wasn’t any quality wine around.

But now – whether it is inflation, incomes or just changing expectations – consumers may just look at the $20 bill and think “what can I get for that”, in the same way they used to look at the $10 bill.

Whatever the reasons, at least in BC, $20 is the new sweet spot for white wines. And with the quality available out there at that price, I am okay with that, and wish it was the same for red wines!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Sauvignon Blanc – the “Other Other” White Grape!

June 11, 2014

With the warmer weather finally coming to the Lower Mainland of BC in the last couple of weeks, I have been drinking more white wines lately. And that has included a number of remarkable Sauvignon Blancs – so thought I would write about them!

Often, it seems, Sauvignon Blancs are ignored. Chardonnay gets the most attention – both good and bad – along with Pinot Gris and Riesling. Viognier is also becoming more and more popular.

But how many times do you hear people raving about Sauvignon Blanc?

And yet it has a fairly distinguished pedigree. In Bordeaux, it is a partner (with Semillon) of some great dry white wines. And it stands by itself in the Loire Valley, where it is the grape that makes Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. In the ‘new world’, as well, Sauvignon Blanc has made a name for itself, particularly in New Zealand.

But you rarely hear about ‘great’ Sauvignon Blanc wines! Why is that?

Part of the answer might be that is often a blended grape, not standing on its own, in the same way as Cabernet Franc or Petite Verdot. Many people also see it as a wine that needs food (particularly shellfish) and doesn’t drink well by itself.

Finally, there is a style of Sauvignon Blanc — usually from New Zealand — that can be not only quite herbal, but even smell like cat’s pee! Nothing “great” about that…

In my experience, however, there are some great ones, as long as you define ‘greatness’ to mean flavourful, fruity, reasonably priced and easy to drink.

Giesen from New Zealand is a perfect example. Year after year it provides ripe — but bone dry — white grapefruit, crisp and delicious, all for < $15.

'White grapefruit' is my common theme when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, and two BC wineries are perfect examples. Howling Bluff – from Naramata in the Okanagan – is one, offering an explosion of grapefruit for a couple of bucks more ($18.95). Same with the wine from La Frenz (also from Naramata), which has a touch more finesse, making it at great wine for $22! Put either of these wines in a blind tasting and their foreign counterparts would be embarrassed!

So next time it is warm out and you are looking for a white wine option, try chilling a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. The grape on the bottle might not make it sound 'great', but you may be surprised about what you taste in your mouth!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Naramata Bench Spring Release 2014 – More Great Wines Coming!

May 7, 2014

Last weekend the Naramata Bench Wineries Association was in town for its Annual Spring Release events. Held at the Four Seasons, both the Trade/Media event — and the public ‘Wine for Waves’ fundraising event in support of the Vancouver Aquarium – were very well done and provided a good glimpse into the new 2012 and 2013 wines (as well as an update on some of the 2011s).

I tweeted out most of my tasting notes, so won’t repeat them here. Instead, I will provide my overall thoughts.

The Vintages – 2013 whites and roses were very good, very ripe. That bodes well for the reds to come. The late released ‘12s were also very nice, although the ’11s were more of a mixed bag (but that was a tough vintage).

Best Overall Winery – LA Frenz No change here, and probably no surprise for those who follow BC wines. All 9 wines I tasted (3 reds, 5 whites, 1 sweet) were fabulous. Interestingly, LA Frenz was just awarded ‘Best Small Winery in North America’, and they once again showed why!

Best Surprises – Perseus Winery and Moraine. I knew about the former’s Merlot, but the Syrah and Cabernet Shiraz were also great. And all their wines are < $20. Moraine I had never tried before, but really liked their Malbec and Syrah.

Biggest Disappointments – I won't 'name names', but still too many wineries trying to make the 'big red wine'. End result is still huge wood and tannin, little or no fruit, big prices.

Best Reds Two of them were 2011s – the La Frenz Cabernet Sauvignon and the Laughing Stock Portfolio and Syrah. Amazingly ripe for the vintage, they were a joy to drink now but had 3 – 5 years in them. La Frenz wins on price ($28 vs $42 and $36 respectively at Laughing Stock). The best 2012s I tasted were the La Frenz regular and reserve Pinot Noirs (both super ripe black cherries, earth and spice), Perseus Syrah and Cabernet-Shiraz (the former a Rhone clone, with black pepper and cherries, the latter like an Aussie Shiraz; both $19.99!) and Moraine's Syrah and Malbec (both more fruit than wood, $23.50). Finally, Lang's '13 Marechal Foch was a revelation! Explosively ripe for a Foch, with meaty, berry flavours.

Best Roses Hillside and Monster were the best in the slightly off dry style (which I like the best). And kudos for pricing them at about $16.

Best Whites For new releases, I loved the '13s from La Frenz (Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier) and '12 Reserve Chardonnay. The former are super ripe but dry, bang on varietally, and stayed at $22 (but worth $5 – $10 more). The latter is a Beringer Reserve clone, with ripe, lush butterscotch citrus – at $29 it is less than half the price of its US cousin. Same with Howling Bluff's '13s, the Semillon (a new bottling) and Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc. The latter, in particular, is an amazing wine and together with the Pinot Gris (to be released in a few weeks) may be the best white wine bargains in BC. Finally, Poplar Grove's regular Chardonnay is nice Cali style wine for < $21.

Sweet – I ended the night with La Frenz's latest NV Tawny Port, and it was as gorgeous as ever.

In summary, another great event! Kudos to Tina Baird at the Society and the Four Seasons for hosting.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com