Posts Tagged ‘Moon Curser’

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

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VIWF PRIMER #2: RHONE AROUND THE WORLD

February 8, 2017

Okay, the Vancouver International Wine Festival is now less than a week away, so my second primer – what to expect from wines made from two of my favourite red grapes, Syrah and Grenache!

I called this blog “Rhone around the World” because the Rhone Valley is the home of these grapes, and where they have become justifiably famous. Syrah is associated with the northern Rhone, where it makes some of the greatest and most long lived wines in the world – Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas are the leaders. Look for pepper, dark cherries, earth, and licorice. No wood, lean but ripe, these wines can be amazing!

Grenache is from the southern Rhone and usually associated with Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and a range of other appelations. The nose is the give away here – lots of dried French herbs (called garrigue), followed by rich red and black fruit, almost kirsh-like in concentration. Again, no wood, and almost as long an age profile as their norther cousins.

But when these two grapes are made elsewhere, the flavour profiles can be both the same – and different!

For Syrah, I am pleased to say that my home province of BC makes some beautiful Rhone-like versions! In Washington State and California, the wines can be riper – not jammy (see what follows), but not as lean, although still with no wood. In Chile, Italy and South Africa, there is way more earthiness and less fruit – not my favourite style.

But the biggest difference is when Syrah is made in a different style – as Shiraz! Famous in Australia, these wines show jammy, super-ripe blackberry and licorice fruit, almost sweet sometimes. I love the best of these wines, but they couldn’t be more different than the ones from France.

And Grenache? Well, I find it fascinating, because while southern Rhones from this grape are among my favourite wines, when they are made in Spain – I literally hate them! And I know why – oak!

When Garnacha (as it is called in Spain) is made, the oak seems to take almost all of the fruit of the wine, leaving herbs and wood behind. No thank you!

Interestingly, in Australia, they find a balance – more wood, but in the form of vanilla covered cherry fruit – and that I like.

What about the festival, then, in terms of wineries to look for?

For northern Rhone style Syrah, we have Jean Luc Columbo, Chapoutier and Ferraton. But don’t overlook a number of BC wineries as well, including Burrowing Owl, Cassini, Moon Curser, Moraine and NkMip. For the Shiraz style, check out Inland Trading (Cimicky, d’Arenberg, Kilikanoon, Penfold’s) from Australia, and La Frenz from BC.

As for Grenache? Aussie winery Yalumba makes some beautiful wines in the riper style. For the traditional southern Rhone style, check out Chapoutier – their Chateauneufs and Cote du Rhones are beautiful wines.

Enjoy!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Syrah/Shiraz…France, Australia, North America…what’s the difference?

September 14, 2016

As usual, I have been drinking a lot of Syrah lately, and continue to be amazed at how different the style of the wine can be depending on where it is made/what winemakers want to do with it.

Most people are probably familiar with the Syrah/Shiraz differences…same grape, but made in a different way. Syrah is typically full of peppery black cherries, touch of earth, a bit lean (but not unripe) and no oak at all. Shiraz, on the other hand, is often a fruit bomb – blackberry jam, so ripe it almost appears sweet, and the oak appears as vanilla.

Syrah is most famous in France (northern Rhone, to be specific, where it makes such famous wines as Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie). And Shiraz, of course, is almost synonymous with Australia.

But both styles are also made elsewhere, and can be dead ringers for those made in these homelands. Washington State, for example, makes some great Rhone style Syrahs, and I am very proud to say that BC does as well! Cassini Cellars, Moraine, Quinta Ferreira, Moon Curser…all are very nice. And the best is by Nichol Vineyards, which at 8 yrs old is almost indistinguishable from a Crozes Hermitage.

Interestingly, when made elsewhere, Syrah can taste almost totally different!

One of my favourites is California, where many producers balance the Northern Rhone style with additional ripeness (but not the jamminess of Shiraz). Ojai is a good example. But this style also appears elsewhere, including in my home province, where Orofino makes a stunningly ripe wine!

I have also found that when Syrah is made in Italy, Chile and South Africa, it often takes on much more earthiness, and herbalness (if oak is used to age the wine). These wines aren’t my style, but some people swear by them, particularly because the latter examples can be great bargains.

In general, I find that oak — at least overt oak — doesn’t add to my enjoyment of Syrah, adding too much of the Bordeaux style herbs and woodiness.

But that is just me! The important thing is to know the different styles of Syrah, find out what you like, and then follow your style…it may appear in a whole bunch of places you never thought of!

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

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

What is the “BC wine experience”?

June 28, 2013

We are heading into peak holiday season, and for many people that will — hopefully — mean a trip into BC’s wine country.

The so called ‘wine experience’ is different for everyone, as it should be. For general tourists with only a passing interest in wine, it may simply be enough to visit a few wineries, taste some wines and experience what it is like to be in wine country.

For regular wine consumers, you may have your favourite wineries to visit, new ones to check out, and look forward to the chance to buy a few wines you can’t get anywhere else except at the winery.

And for wine collectors/dweebs (like me), it is a very focused experience – on specific wines you ‘need’ to taste and/or buy, and potential new gems to be unearthed.

So with these different expectations, what should wineries do — and not do — to help ensure they are met, which hopefully will mean return customers!

Well, great customer service is obviously a no-brainer. Many people are intimidated by wine, so anything that makes it easier and more comfortable to taste will be helpful and make it more enjoyable.

Low costs is another. Most wineries charge $2 – $3 to taste, refundable with any purchase, and I think people see that as fair. It probably doesn’t come close to recovering the costs of the wine or staff, but is enough to dissuade any yahoos who might just be looking for ‘free drinks’ or to get drunk (think Miles at the end of Sideways…)!

A range of wine available to taste is another big draw — whether you are a tourist or oenophile. The latter group (i.e. me) may, in particular, want to taste your ‘best wines’, so if that is possible — even with an extra fee — it will be well received. When I was in Napa years ago, I paid extra to taste reserve wines at Beringer and Mondavi, and it was well worth it!

Having said that, if one or more of your wines is made in too small a quantity (or is sold out), just let people know, in advance if possible on your website. Then there will be no surprises during tasting.

One thing I don’t like are the wineries that want you to book your tasting in advance, often with a larger fee. Frankly, there are few wines I would do that for in BC, and it just comes across as snooty to me. If you have wines that you want people to taste, make it easy for them to do that — that’s what will bring more of them in!

Finally, watch out for how much pressure is put on to ‘buy’ wine. I know I feel a bit guilty when I taste but don’t buy, particularly when there is no tasting fee. But I also don’t want any hard selling!

What works better for me is hearing where the wines are available for sale. If it is only at the winery or online (and by the case), that is more likely to entice me to buy. Frankly, that is the main reason I make the trip to wine country, to buy what I want, in the quantities I want, without the markups from the private stores.

That’s my advice, then, on the ways to ensure the ‘wine experience’ is a positive one, regardless of why you are coming!

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.

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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