Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Lehman’

SOME TIPS ON VISITING WINERIES DURING HARVEST SEASON

September 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the Fall!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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

BC WINES I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR

March 13, 2013

It’s almost spring – at least that’s what the calendar says – and that means new wine releases are just around the corner (or have already started!).

Here is a quick list of the ones I am looking forward to this year in BC.

1. Kettle Valley – well, they have already been released (and I bought them for my wine club), but the 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir and Hayman Pinot Noir are a great way to start the year off! Always two of the best – if not the best – Pinots from the province, this year is the added bonus of the Hayman being designated as “John’s Block” after the recently departed BC wine legend John Levine.

2. Eau Vivre – this Similkameen winery has also already released its 2010 Pinot Noir, which hopefully follows on the footsteps of its incredible 2008 and 2009 (the latter was a Lieutenant Governor Award winner).

3. Nichol – the 2010 Syrah was just released late in 2012, so it will be a bit of a wait for the 2011, but that will no doubt be worth it for what is the best Rhone-style Syrah made in the province.

4. Blue Mountain – ah, the Striped Label/Reserve Pinot Noir! This was the first great BC wine I ever tasted (the 1996, I believe) and it continues to challenge the Kettle Valley wines each year for Pinot supremacy. Look for the 2010 sometime in April or May.

5. La Frenz – there is no argument among wine dweebs like me: La Frenz is the best overall winery in BC (and Canada, for that matter). May will bring the release of most of their 2012 white wines (the Small Lots Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Semillon are all the best made here, and at about $20 ridiculous values). Also released at that time will be the 2011 Merlot (also the best in BC) and – hopefully – the 2012 Rose, which is perhaps the greatest adult guilty pleasure there is out there! And then the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon in July, again the best fruit-forward Cab in the province.

6. Cassini Cellars – a relative newbie on my “best list”, look for the 2012 Merlot (maybe the best red wine bargain in BC at $18), the 2010 Syrah, 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve and 2010 Chardonnay Reserve, all to be released in May.

7. Howling Bluff – another relatively new addition, their Pinot Noir and Sauvignon/Semillon blend have been amazing (and garnered many awards). Look for the 2011 vintages this spring.

8. Marichel – another Syrah specialist, I can’t wait to taste Richard’s 2010 in the bottle (it was amazing in barrel last summer).

9. Moon Curser – the former Twisted Tree Vineyards, I have really liked the quality of their Syrah and Border Vines (a Bordeaux blend), as well as the unique Rhone white blend Afraid of the Dark. Look for the 2011 vintages of the former and the 2012 of the latter in late spring.

10. Mt. Lehman – last, but not least, my friends from the Fraser Valley who make amazing wine at great prices. Look for the 2010 versions of the Reserve Pinot Noir and Syrah, as well as the 2011 Viognier, all sooner rather than later!

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