Posts Tagged ‘Nichol’

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

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

November 5, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s up?

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

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

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

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

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Vintage – Does it Really Matter?

September 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, in the end, does vintage matter?

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

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

IT’S SPRING – WINES TO LOOK FORWARD TO!

April 2, 2014

A couple of sunny days and you can’t help but believe that Spring is actually here! For us wine dweebs, that means new wines are coming…and white wines at that!

So what to look forward to?

Well, in B.C. there are a number of flagship wineries – and wines – that I look forward to every year. And most of the come from the Naramata Bench above Okanagan Lake.

First and foremost are the white wines from La Frenz, B.C.’s premier winery. It makes three white wines that I and my wine club buy year in, year out, because of their quality and value.

The first – and perhaps best – is their Semillon. It is dry, but with ripe fruit, grassy aromas and just a touch of oak. Like a cross between Bordeaux, New Zealand and California (in the best possible way). It drinks very well on release but also has a surprising ability to age. And still around $22 a bottle!

Next up, and not far behind in quality, is their Small Lots Riesling. It is made in the classic German/Alsace style, with green apples, petrol aromas and slightly off dry fruit. Also a candidate for short term aging, although it is so delicious that I have a hard time resisting it – especially at about $20.

Last, but not least, is the Viognier. Definitely Cali style here, with a fruit cocktail assortment of aromas and flavours, surprisingly big body, and a dry finish. It is also around $22, a price that puts other versions to shame.

The other premier white wine maker on the Bench is Howling Bluff. In particular, I love their Pinot Gris, which smells and tastes like white grapefruit! It is dry, but so flavourful and – can you believe it – is around $18!

Their other wine is a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend that is only a dollar more, but worth it. Like a white Graves but without as much oak, it is crisp, clean and bone dry as well.

And what about Chardonnay? Well, if you put aside the Reserve bottlings (which won’t be released to later in the year), I think Township 7 makes as nice a wine as you will find. It is my style of Chardonnay – vanilla, butter and ripe citrus, lush and full bodied from malolactic fermentation, and ready to drink. And do drink it up – the only downside of this wine is that the oak sneaks up on it within a year or so.

Finally, there is the Nichol Pinot Gris – a truly unique wine. Ross Hackworth makes the only true “Gris” wine in BC (that I know of), leaving the skins on the grapes long enough to impart an incredible colour to the wine. It ranges from a light pink to an almost deep orange! But don’t let the colour fool you – the wine is still bone dry, crisp and refreshing. I have a wine club member who buys it by the case every year!

So Spring – bring it on! The Naramata Bench Spring Releases are less than a month away, and I can’t wait.

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

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

NARAMATA WINE TOUR

May 22, 2013

With the May long weekend marking the unofficial start to the season — and most BC wineries now open for public tastings — I thought I would do a series of blogs on self-guided wine tours. I will start with my favourite region – Naramata!

Naramata – the isolated little conclave on the eastern side of Lake Okanagan – is an idyllic spot. Only five minutes outside of downtown Penticton, it seems like you are miles away from urbanity! It is also all about wine up there and, in my opinion, perhaps the best wine in B.C. (if not in Canada).

1. La Frenz

As you drive up the long, winding road into Naramata, the first place to stop is the best – La Frenz! Jeff and Niva Martin are from Australia and have been making great wine – that offers ridiculous value – since the mid-1990s. Having been tasting, drinking and cellaring their wines for over ten years now, I can confidently say the produce the best wines in Canada – red, white, rose and sweet. Their tasting room is small but nicely laid out, with a constantly changing selection of almost all their wines to try at a small cost (which is reimbursable with any purchase.

Tasting at La Frenz easy – just try everything that is offered! My favourite whites are the Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Small Lots Riesling, Viognier – all easily the best in BC, and between $20 – $22 a bottle! The Reserve Chardonnay is also a beauty, like a baby Beringer Private Reserve. For reds, they have Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (again, the best in BC) as well as Shiraz, Malbec, and Pinot Noir (check out the Reserve…wow!). And don’t forget their Rose in the summer – an explosion of ripe strawberries and grapefruit – as well as three sweet wines (non-vintage Tawny Ports and Muscat, plus a Vintage Shiraz Port).

2. Hillside

The next winery I recommend for a short stop as you drive through Naramata is Hillside Estate. They have a nice tasting room as well as a bistro that is open for both lunch and dinner.

A full range of whites and reds are available for tasting at Hillside, with the standard small fee that is refunded if you buy anything. I recommend tasting the Gewurztraminer and Muscat Ottonel for the whites and the Syrah for the reds (the rest of the reds are made in more Bordeaux style).

3. Marichel

Marichel Vineyards is next up. Richard Roskell, the winemaker and proprietor, makes only Syrah and Viognier and has a small tasting room, but don’t let that fool you – these are artisanal wines well worth stopping to taste and buy.

Syrah and Viognier are the red and white offerings here, two versions of each (one more “serious” and the other less expensive and designed for immediate consumption). Both are Rhone style, although the Syrahs are fruitier than most in Naramata. The estate Syrah is particularly worth checking out – not cheap at $40, but a beautiful cross between Rhone and Australia!

4. Kettle Valley

This beautiful vineyard is at the bottom of a long, winding road that has a great view of the lake. The tasting room is about as minimalist as you can get – the back part of a house! But, once again, don’t let that fool you – Kettle Valley makes arguable the best Pinot Noir in B.C. (if not in Canada). And although you rarely get to taste their two best Pinots on site (because they are made in such small quantities), you can buy them directly from the winery’s website.

I stick to reds for tasting here…Pinot Noirs first, (whatever they have available to taste, and if they have the Hayman Vineyard or Reserve, well, enjoy! They are flagship Pinot Noirs for BC and Canada. I also like the Merlot, which is more fruit-forward than most, and they make an interesting Marechal Foch-based wine (Extra 4079) and a version of port called Caboose, both of which are worth tasting.

4. Howling Bluff

Another relative newcomer to the Naramata winescape, Howling Bluff burst on the scene a few years ago by winning a couple of prestigious Governor General awards for their Pinot Noir. It remains their best red wine, made in a cross between California and Burgundy with spicy cherry fruit.

There are now three whites – a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. All are very nice and great bargains at under $20. Another unpretentious tasting room in the back of their house, but amazing wines to be tasted.

5. Nichol Vineyards

Always the last stop in my Naramata trip, because it is the literally the last winery before
the road winds down into the town. Ross Hackworth purchased this winery from the Nichol family a number of years ago and – with it – the oldest Syrah vines in Canada (which is the reason I come to taste and buy every year!).

For whites, there are Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris to taste, and both are worth it, especially the latter. It is made in a true “Gris” style, with the skins left on for a while so that the white wine ends up a shade of pink (how deep a shade depends on the year). But it is always bone dry.

With respect to reds, it all about Syrah for me. This is the best Syrah in Canada (don’t just take my word for it – British critic Jancis Robinson says so too!). Made in the classic Rhone style, it is nice young but after 4 – 5 years – well, it would embarrass many a Crozes-Hermitage, let me tell you!

6. Naramata Wine Restaurants

If you want to stop for dinner in Naramata (either after a day of tasting or a drive up from nearby Penticton), definitely check out the Naramata Inn and Spa restaurant. It may have the best BC wine list in the province, including some hard to find bottles (like the Kettle Valley Hayman Vineyard Pinot Noir and Nichol Syrah Reservare) and the prices are very reasonable. The food is very good to – California/French, served either inside or on a beautiful patio.

So if you are in Penticton or the area, head up to Naramata for the afternoon and taste some of the best wine in BC…and Canada!

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