Posts Tagged ‘Pinot Noir’

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

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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

Whither Vancouver Island Wine?

August 26, 2015

Time to report back on our brief trip to Vancouver Island last week, which featured a half day touring some wineries.

The good news? The best wineries are making amazing wine. But some of the rest is only “middling’ at best”.

Let’s start with the best, and that is Averill Creek! Andy Johnson has been making tremendous Pinot Noir for years now at his Mt. Prevost winery, and the 2011 is no exception. In a word – stunning! Purple, spicy/earthy black cherries, silky tannins…at least 3 – 5 years of life in it.

The rest of his wines are nothing to sneeze at either! Their Cab/Foche – “Foch Eh?” – is super ripe, and meant to be served chilled. A good bargain. For whites, the Pinot Gris is a very nice oak-aged wine, the Gewurztraminer one of the few dry versions I have tasted, and the sparkling fresh and pure. And the ’14 Somenos Rose is summer in a bottle!

Next up in quality is Rocky Creek. Such a small place off the highway – literally, you will miss it if you don’t look for it – but it is worth finding! For reds, it is Pinot Noir again…not as big or age worthy as Averill Creek, but the 2013 is very pure…I bought a couple to see how it develops. Next best is their sparkle – Catherine’s Sparkle, after the daughter. Clean, crisp, Cava style – nice wine! They also make a true “Gris” wine – a white that stays on its skins to add colour. Almost orange, the ’13 is bone dry but very flavourful. And the Roberts Rose (after their son)? Nothing to sneeze at!

Third on the list is Zanatta Winery. A bit hard to find (literally in the forest), it specializes in sparkling wine. While you can’t taste them in the tasting room, they do flights at the Bistro – and it is well worth it! No longer vintage wines, the three versions are still aged on their lees and very complex…and at about $25, represent ridiculous values in this kind of wine. And don’t miss the bistro for some nice food!

Finally, Blue Grouse…stunning new winery, but this Pinot Noir producer only makes 120 cases of their flagship wine, so not available to taste. I bought some anyway based on past experience, but it would have been nice to try there! The rest of the wines were middling’ at best.

That was all the time we had on the Sunday (aside form an attempt at Venturi-Schulze, which was cut short by a loud mouth braggart behind the tasting bar who I couldn’t but put up with; had to leave – what a jerk).

So quantity of wineries – not so sure, as I didn’t get to all of them.

But quality of a few? Very high…nice to see, and bodes well for the future!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Handicapping the 2015 BC Pinot Noir Celebration

August 19, 2015

Okay, back from holidays, and I can’t resist being a bit cheeky with my first blog!

It relates the the 2015 BC Pinot Noir Celebration scheduled for this weekend in Kaleden (in BC’s beautiful Similkameen Valley). For those not familiar with the event, it was started last year by a number of BC wineries to celebrate the so-called ‘heartbreak grape’. Billed purposely as a ‘celebration’ and not a ‘competition’, it never-the-less has entry requirements and features tastings that can’t help but lend themselves to comparisons! And with international wine celebrity Steven Spurrier the host this year (he of Bottle Shock fame), there may be more competition references than ever!

So given that – and my interest in being cheeky – I am going to handicap the event similar to the way film critics do with potential Academy Award winners!

My categories will be three:
* best overall Pinot Noir Winery
* best Reserve Pinot Noir (5 + years old)
* best regular Pinot Noir.

In doing this, I will also reference wineries/wines that aren’t there if that is relevant.

So here we go!

Best Pinot Noir Winery

My Nominees: Kettle Valley, Blue Mountain, Quail’s Gate, Meyer

a) Should win – Kettle Valley (not there)

BC Pinot Noir dweebs like me know that the Kettle Valley Hayman Vineyard is the only true Burgundian Pinot in BC, as well as one of the best. The more Cali-style Reserve is not far behind, and even the regular Pinot Noir is beautiful. This award would be an easy choice for me!

b) Would win – Quail’s Gate or Meyer Family

Quail’s Gate has been making reserve and regular Pinot Noirs since the beginning of the BC wine industry and while the former are a bit pricey, they are definitely good. Plus they are VQA. Meyer is a relative newcomer, but gets good press for its pricey wines. And according to the media, are the only BC Pinots that Spurrier has followed in England. Neither make better Pinot Noirs than Kettle Valley, but…Take your pick!

Best Reserve/High End Pinot Noir (5+ years old)

My Nominees: Kettle Valley Hayman, Kettle Valley Reserve, Blue Mountain Reserve, La Frenz Reserve, Averill Creek Reserve, Howling Bluff, Meyer (Mclean Creek or Reimer), Foxtrot, Quail’s Gate Family Reserve, Cedarcreek Platinum

a) Should win – Kettle Valley Hayman (not there) and Blue Mountain Reserve

Boy, this would be a great tasting…and one I would pay just to attend! I have cellared half of these wines for a decade or more, and tasted the rest a number of times.

Based on my experience, after 5 years in a better than average vintage, you would actually have to pick two wines because of different styles. The Hayman starts tasting/smelling like Burgundy at that age, and there is nothing else in BC like it. Meanwhile, the Blue Mountain Reserve has evolved as well, into a Burgundy/Cali clone. Different, but just as delicious.

By the way, a couple of wines would be sleepers, if only because I haven’t seen them age yet. Both Howling Bluff and La Frenz have stepped up big time in this category…it will be interesting to watch their wines as they age!

b) Would win – Quails Gate Family Reserve or Cedarcreek Platinum or Meyer (either)

Both Quail’s Gate and Cedarcreek are long time darlings of the industry. They do make good (if often expensive) wine, but not as good as either the Blue Mountain Reserve of Kettle Valley Hayman (or the Kettle Valley Reserve, La Frenz Reserve, Howling Bluff and Averill Creek Reserve). Same for Meyer.

Best Regular Pinot Noir

My Nominees: Averill Creek, La Frenz, Eau Vivre, Moraine, Blue Mountain, Quail’s Gate, Cedarcreek, Meyer, Okanagan Crush Pad, Tantalus

a) Should win – Eau Vivre (not there) or Averill Creek

Eau Vivre is a back to back Lieutenant Governor Award winner and still about $20…’nuff said! A great wine, year in, year out. And Averill Creek’s regular Pinot Noir is a stunning achievement, not just for Vancouver Island, but for anywhere.

Others to watch? La Frenz’s new regular Pinot Noir, and Moraine (a new kind on the block).

b) Would win – Okanogan Crush Pad, Tantalus

The former is the latest media darling – a spot for winemakers to come make their wines. A good idea, but I haven’t tasted great Pinot yet. And Tantalus? They are one of the founders of this event…
Now, let’s wait for the media to report out this weekend!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOW TO STILL DRINK RED WINE WHEN IT IS STINKIN’ HOT OUT!

July 29, 2015

Okay, the heat is coming back up here…it has already been an amazing summer for weather, so hot for us, which is not the norm for sure!

But one drawback…while I have enjoyed the bevy (always wanted to use that word) of white and rose wines, the reds I truly love have been few and far between.

But I have had some…which got me to thinking about the title of this blog!

So how do you still drink red wine when it is stinking hot out?

Well, a couple of ideas that have worked for me this summer (and in the past).

First off, pick young, fruity and un-oaked wines. Gamay is one example (or Beaujolais in France), or a light Pinot Noir, a Barbera from Italy, or even a Marechal Foch (if you are from my home province of BC). With no wood or tannin, they just go down easier than bigger wines.

Another idea is to take the wines above…and chill them a bit! Now I’m not a fan of cold red wine, so don’t go that far. But in very hot weather, the term “room temperature” is kind of out of whack. So throw one of those wines in the fridge for 15 minutes (or put in an ice bucket). Then take it out, open it and set it on the table. The fruit should really shine through, and it will seem more refreshing in the heat.

How about trying your red wines later in the evening? This applies mostly to dinner parties, although anyone can try it. Once the sun goes down (and the temperature with it), it becomes more comfortable to drink red wines (along with a number other things).

Finally, take the above advice and try it with mature wine! With the tannins gone and the wine smoothed out, you don’t get the “kick” that can come from a big, young red wine. We tried that with a 15 year old Chateauneuf du Pape the other night and the result was amazing!

So when it is hot – and you still want to try to drink red wine – try some of the ideas above. They won’t replace cool whites and roses, but may give you an enjoyable break!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Can You Have a Wine Competition…Without the Best Wines?

July 8, 2015

Those who follow my blog know that I have a problem with wine competitions in general. But today I saw something that almost put me over the edge! So I had to blog about it.

The third – I think it is the third – BC Pinot Noir Celebration is occurring in August. Not only that, they have coaxed international wine celebrity Steven Spurrier (he of “Bottle Shock” fame) to come. The purpose is to bring together great Pinot Noirs from BC and other parts of the world to “compare” – not compete – and discuss.

The problem? The list of BC Pinot Noirs that the judges have decided to have don’t include the best producers in BC!

Anybody who knows anything about BC Pinot Noir knows that two producers have historically made the best wine – Blue Mountain (with their Reserve Pinot Noir) and Kettle Valley (with their Hayman and Reserve bottlings). I have personal tasting notes from these wines going back over 10 years…they are not only stunning young, but can age for 8+ years.

And then there are the newcomers. La Frenz from Naramata? Averill Creek from Vancouver Island? Both make outstanding wines, capable of at least near term aging…but they aren’t there either.

That got me to thinking…why?

The simplest answer might be that these wineries declined to participate. And if that is the case, you can stop reading right now.

But if they did want to…submitted wines to the “judging panel”…and weren’t accepted, what does that say about the panel and those who are promoting BC wines?

And even if they didn’t submit wines, what will the general public think? The event has the opportunity to get huge publicity…but if the best wines aren’t there?

Perhaps the wineries in question don’t need to care. Blue Mountain and Kettle Valley don’t make a lot of their wine, so it won’t affect sales. La Frenz and Averill Creek? Probably the same.

But as a wine dweeb…it pisses me off! The wines that are missing can be outstanding …world class! And they miss out?

Makes me want to send some to Robert Parker…hey, now that is an idea!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Red, White, Sparkling, Sweet…How Do You Know?

June 24, 2015

Here’s a popular topic that I haven’t written about for a while…what is the best kind of wine to serve with food and/or at different occasions?

The short – very short – answer is so simple. Just serve what you and/or your guests like the best! Way too much is made out of “matching” wines with certain foods, what clashes or helps with what, etc.

Much of that is just marketing, designed to make you pay more and/or buy what you don’t like!

Are there food and wine matchups that don’t work? Sure. And do some kinds of wine work better when it is hot vs cold (and vice versa)? Of course.

But a lot of it is just common sense!

Let’s take weather, for example. When it is stinking hot outside, do you even feel like serving red wine? Probably not. So go for something cold – white or sparkling. It will be more refreshing and enjoyable regardless of what you serve.

The same goes with food. If you have a very spicy or hot dish, there is no point in serving a wine with flavours you want to enjoy (or even taste). The spices/heat will just overwhelm it! Go for beer instead. If you need to have wine, you can actually try wines with a bit of sweetness too them – Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, even late harvest wines. The sweetness can actually cut through some of the heat.

Same with barbequed meats with really flavourful sauces. Those same whites will work, as will big, juicy red wines like Zinfandel and Shiraz (as long as sauces aren’t too spicy).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you make a dish that is quite delicate – say with a cream sauce, or fish/seafood that is seasoned lightly to emphasis the product – stay away from almost all red wines, except maybe light Pinot Noir. They are just too strong flavoured, and you won’t be able to taste the food. For whites, you can go with light oak (Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon) or big oak (Cali style Chardonnay), which may actually enhance a rich cream sauce.

Anything with wine cooked in it (braises or stews, for example), can be good candidate for big red wines with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, or Nebbiolo in them. Younger versions with tannin will cut through the rich fat than can be in these dishes, while older wines will actually mix well with the wine cooked in them.

What about sparkling? Well, I say serve it any time! Lighter wines (especially from California or Spain) are great before a meal or with seafood. If you like aged Champagne (which can be an acquired taste with its toasty yeastiness), it can actually be served with the meal itself, because it is so rich.

Finally, sweet wines? Dessert is obvious…but just make sure the dessert isn’t a lot sweeter than the wine (or vice versa) as you will only be able to taste one of the two. Cheese too, although be careful. Any oak in the wine will clash with many delicate cheeses… those are better with old cheddars, parmesans or blue cheeses. Same with older wines…don’t serve with cheeses that are too flavourful, or you won’t be able to taste the wine!

But the bottom line for me? Serve the wine you or your guests like the best! Then they will drink – and enjoy – it. While it may not be perfect for the food, I bet they will remember the wine…and want to come back for more!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Vancouver Wine Festival 2015 – Four Wineries No One Has Told You About

February 25, 2015

It’s that time of year again, and I am excited to be going to the Vancouver International Wine Festival tomorrow night. But in reading the lead up to the Festival in the past week, it has struck me – yet again – that some of the best wineries are not being promoted.

Why? Well, that would be a blog of it’s own…

But given the short time frame, let’s focus on four wineries – and their wines – you may not have heard about, but certainly shouldn’t miss out on.

Let’s start with BC, my home province. Incredibly, La Frenz Winery – which wine dweebs like me know is the best overall winery not just in the province, but in Canada as well – has seen nary a peep of promotion.

If there is one winery you need to go to, it is La Frenz. According to the info, they are pouring four wines – 3 whites and 1 red. All are worth trying, but if you are limited for time the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc may be the best of its kind ever made in BC (it has won numerous awards) and the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay will make you think of Beringer’s Private Reserve for half the price. And the red? Well, if you want a Cali/Burgundy Pinot Noir cross, try the 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve – it is stunning, and a real bargain at $32.

Next up is one from Australia, the featured country this year. And I am still shaking my head that d’Arenberg hasn’t received any press, as – wine for wine – they are my favourite producer in Australia (and have been for many years). They are pouring two of their best wines as well! The first – the Galvo Garage – is a Bordeaux blend that tastes the way Bordeaux should. The fruit is super ripe, but not jammy, with just the right amount of wood and herbs. Nice young, it ages easily for 8 – 10 years. And their best wine is the Dead Arm Shiraz. More Syrah than Shiraz, it is classic black peppery, cherries, licorice and earth – tannic when young, but oh, so beautiful after 8 years or so.

The third winery to look for is Zenato, from Italy. Zenato specializes in Amarone and Valpolicella, both of which can be acquired tastes, although real red wine lovers will definitely appreciate them. The Amarone is high alcohol, almost overripe, and just amazing. The Valpolicella is made from dried grapes and has that nutty flavor to it…again, a beautiful wine.

Last winery? Giesen from New Zealand. They specialize in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, both of which are amazing. Even the regular bottles are extremely ripe, but the Reserves (called “The Brothers”) can be mindblowing. All are being poured this week.

So there you go…four wineries that haven’t been promoted, that you may not have heard of. But if you go taste their wines, you will not be disappointed.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Does the Region on Your Wine Label Really Matter?

November 21, 2014

A bit of ‘wine buzz’ recently up here in BC around new or sub-regions in different parts of our Okanagan Valley, where the vast majority of our great wine is made. And that got me thinking – does this kind of identification really matter and, if so, why?

It’s certainly not new, of course! Bordeaux and Burgundy have led the way in this area for over a hundred years, breaking up their Crus — and even certain vineyards – based on differences that the French call terroir. And both Napa and Sonoma valleys in Cali have done it extensively over the past 40 – 50 years.

But back to my questions – does it matter, and if so, why?

There is no doubt that certain grapes grow differently in different soils and climates, producing different flavored wines. One has only to taste even a generic Bordeaux compared to a similarly priced Cali Cabernet Sauvignon to see that. So – from a consumer point of view – I can see the benefit if it is explained that way ie if you know the style of Cabernet or Chardonnay you like, that could help you pick out wine.

It could help winemakers too, of course. No use planting a varietal in soil/climate that won’t usually allow it to ripen fully on a regular basis. Hence the lack of Grenache in BC (which needs lots of sun and heat).

But there are two areas (no pun intended) where I get suspicious. The first is around sub, sub, sub regions. Does the wine really taste that different to justify that? Or is it just marketing and promotion…which brings me to my last concern.

If producers — or geographical areas, for that matter – are charging more because of a perceived quality difference, well…I’m not sure I agree. Even in Bordeaux and Burgundy you see Grand/Premier Cru wineries and vineyards in a range of different area. Promote the producer/wine as better – absolutely. But the region or sub-region?

The main reason for my argument comes back to the fact that everybody likes different styles of wine. The ones they like best they will think are the best…but that is for them. The opposite is also true. I have a friend who loves Bordeaux-style Cabernet as much as I dislike them, and actually traded me some Okanagan wines for them (which I love) for that reason.

So beware the wine region buzz! Focus instead on matching the style of wine you like with what is – or can – be made in whatever region you are in or tasting. That is a better way to help guarantee your enjoyment!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com