Posts Tagged ‘value’

The Annual Bordeaux Release Frenzy – and Why not to get sucked into it!

September 24, 2019

Okay, its that time of the year again, both for the annual release of the new Bordeaux…and my blog about how to avoid it!

Now, as I say every year, I know that Bordeaux makes probably the world’s most famous wines. And they are definitely what most wine lovers – and dweebs like me – covet. I admit it – when I started out in wine, these were the ones that I bought for my cellar.

But over the past 35 years, I have learned and evolved as a wine drinker…and learned a few things. So let me pass some of them on to you!

  1. If you haven’t tried Bordeaux before, do it before you invest the big bucks

This is the first thing I tell people who ask me about Bordeaux or any other wine. You need to try a wine before you buy it, particularly if you are going to spend a lot of money on it.

Red Bordeaux is a blend of four or five major grapes (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc). But more importantly, it is made in a style that emphasizes wood and herbs over fruit. This is not a California wine, and it won’t get fruiter as it gets older. Try it first…if you like it, then go for it. But if you go “meh” …there are other options for you.

  1. 99% of the wines are overpriced and not worth it

Even if you do like the style, the vast majority of the wines are way overpriced, and not worth it. You really need $100+++ to get a decent wine…and, in my opinion, that is just too much money. I can give you lots of other wines that you can buy 2 bottles or more for that price that are better value.

  1. Except for the best, most expensive wines, they won’t get better as they age

This is perhaps the biggest myth of Bordeaux…buy it young and tannic, but after 15+ years it will evolve into something amazing.

Sorry, but that is a bunch of bull****!

If it is woody and herbal when young, chances are it will be like that when it is old too. Again, the most expensive wines may be different, but the vast majority will never get any different or better as they age.

  1. Don’t fall for they hype

I’m a PR guy, that’s what I do for a living. So believe me when I tell you…don’t fall for the “vintage of the century” stuff! There are good years and bad years, but it rarely ever gets amazing…and certainly not amazing enough to justify the price.

  1. Don’t buy the wine…but go get free boxes!

Finally, if you have or are building a wine cellar, I do recommend one thing about the annual Bordeaux release…go and get the beautiful wooden boxes that are left over after the wines are sold! Many chateaux pack their wines in gorgeous 12 bottle wooden boxes, and most stores just throw them out after the sale (since most people can’t afford to my more than a couple at a time). But the boxes – turn them on their side, and…voila, instant wine rack, and eminently stackable! Go grab a few (I know I will).

So, there you go…my annual Bordeaux blog…take it or leave it, but as they say in the business…buyer beware!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

What’s up with Fraser Valley Wine in the Summer of 2019 – Part 2: The Old Guard  

September 12, 2019

Similar to what I did for Vancouver Island, I am grouping my wine tasting tour into two parts. The first I am calling “the old guard”, as these are wineries I have been going to for years now.

First stop was Domaine Chaberton in Langley, and for more than the wine – the restaurant Bacchus Bistro! One of the great secrets of the Valley, this is as good a French bistro as you will find anywhere, including in Vancouver. Duck confit, boeuf bourgignon, pate, French onion soup – they have it all, large portions, great quality and value. Plus most of their wines are by the glass!!

After “fueling up” there, I tasted the latest of their wines, and three continue to stand out for me. For whites, they make a great oaked Chardonnay – their Reserve – which is made in classic California style, with lovely vanilla and butter covered citrus. I also love their Rose – called “Pink” – which is a touch on the off-dry side, but wonderfully fruity and fresh. Last but not least, their Syrah. I think it is their best red wine, made in a Rhone style, which means pepper, earth, dried cherries – and no oak. It drinks well now, but also ages for up to 5 years.

From Chaberton, I circled back to Vista D’Oro, a somewhat eclectic winery and farm. I say “eclectic” because you never know what they will have available! In the past, I have had wonderful Pinot Noirs – made from Vancouver Island grapes – but this time there was only Marechal Foch. But that was fine! They make one of the best around – ripe, meaty, full of fruit and no oak. Not for keeping/aging, but what a joy to drink now!

The last of my “old guard” is out in Abbotsford – Mt. Lehman Winery. Verne has been making great wines for ridiculously low prices for years, and this visit was no different. The had almost ten different wines to taste!

Most impressive? For me, on the whites…it was their Reserve Chardonnay. I am a big “oaked” Chardonnay fan – I know, not a popular thing these days – and this is absolutely gorgeous! Light gold, classic Cali style with vanilla and butter covered citrus fruit, but not too much wood on the finish. And it is under $20 with tax included! That is stupid good!

 Following a similar theme…Verne’s Pinot Noirs! His regular is – get this – is $12.96 plus tax! You can’t find a better wine value from BC or anywhere for that price! Bright cherry fruit, a touch of vanilla and spice…it would blow away other Pinots at twice that price!

Except for his Reserve Pinot, of course! The 2014 is the same price as his Reserve Chardonnay…and even better! If Burgundy, or California or the Okanagan could make a wine like this for that price…simply amazing! Ripe cherries and tannins, just the right balance of wood and fruit…it is beautiful at almost 5 years old now, but I bought a few to see how they age…crazy good!

That is it for my old guard…some new finds next week!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

What’s up with Fraser Valley Wine in the Summer of 2019 – Part 1

August 29, 2019

What a treat to get a day to tour Fraser Valley wineries a week or so ago! Got a chance to see the old – and the new – and, similar to Vancouver Island wine, there was a nice mix of old guard and new.

There were also some similar trends at play…which is what this first blog focuses on.

On the downside? First and foremost, was price – at least at some of the wineries. Many, many wines in the $30++ category, and I’m not sure they were worth that, to be honest.

Second, a trend to making wines from grapes from outside of the Fraser Valley. Now, perhaps this isn’t a downside – after all, there are lots of negotiants in France that buy grapes from all over and make fabulous wines.

But sometimes it seems a bit ingenuous to buy a wine from a Fraser Valley winery that came from grapes far away.

On the plus side, there are some ridiculous bargains from a price perspective, particularly in two of the Abbotsford wineries! One of the proprietors told me they just couldn’t sell their wine or more than $20 – $30…there was no market. If that is true, I hope they are still making money on it, because some of it was amazing! And other wineries in the Valley (and across BC) should maybe take notice?

Also on the plus side was quality, particularly with some of the white wines. Pinot Gris, white blends with Ortega, even Chardonnay and Viognier…some were quite stunning. Reds were less successful from the area, which is more a reflection of climate, I think, than wine making.

Final plus…hospitality…and how busy many of the wineries were! There were bus tours at a number of them when I went through, and the tasting rooms were full, loud and happy sounding. What a great thing for Fraser Valley wine!

As for the wines themselves? Well, stay tuned…Part two is next week!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

 

 

 

Vancouver Island Blog Part 3 – The New Guard!

August 22, 2019

Last – but not least – on my trip to Vancouver Island were two new wineries. Well, one with new owners…and one that is only a couple of years old!

I started at Alderlea Vineyards (on the other side of the Island Highway from where you turn to go to Averill Creek). I have tried to find this winery a couple of times before but either couldn’t find it or it was closed. Well, this time I found it…it was open…and boy, was I impressed!

New owners is the reason, I think…Zac and Julie bought the winery a couple of years ago and were pouring the results of there efforts, both white and red.

For the whites, my favourite was one called 2018 Valerie, co-owner Julie’s wine made from a blend of Ortega and Viognier. It won a Gold medal at the recent Canadian Wine Championships and I can see why…explosively fruity but bone dry, just lovely!

But, as a “reds guy”, it was the Reserve Pinot Noir (2016) that really turned my head! Burgundian in style, but with very ripe fruit and tannins (most Burgundies would die for this level of fruit concentration). It also has tremendous potential (although beautiful to drink now as well). And at about $32 it represents amazing value!

Oh, and that Merlot I mentioned in Blog Part 1…Zac got this smile on his face as we were talking about fruit-forward wines…then he looked sideways and with a finger beckoned me back into the cellar…where he got me a sample of something from a barrel. “Merlot” he said…and when I stuck my nose in it…wow! Pure plums and blueberries…super ripe, no oak presence at all…if the wine stays that way when bottled, I will buy…a lot of it!

The other winery I “found” is called Emandare. It is the same side of the Island Highway as Alderlea, although a bit closer. I got to meet Mike, the co-owner/winemaker…he bought the site with vines a few years ago. Major emphasis on quality fruit, and it showed in the wines!

The 2018 Sauvignon Blanc was my favourite white…crisp, clean, no oak, lots of citrus…too bad it is already sold out! But, once again, it was a Pinot Noir that stole the show!

At first, when I saw the price – $45 – I paused…a lot for a BC wine…and not a reserve either. But when I stuck my nose in the glass…wow…it was pure berry Pinot Noir, very rich and ripe without being jammy and candied. It was even better in the mouth, with firm but ripe tannins wrapped around the cherry fruit. It is a few years away from being at its best…and I decided to buy a couple to see how it turns out!

That was all the time I had for the day, but if the future of Vancouver Island is represented by these two wineries, it is in very good hands indeed!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

“Other” White Wines to Drink in the Summer

July 25, 2019

Summer is definitely here in Vancouver, and that means – because of the warmth – it is mostly white and Rose to drink (although the odd Gigondas does get opened…but that is another story…).

I have written about Rose already this summer, but what about whites? The usual choices are Chardonnay (oaked and unoaked), Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling (dry or off dry) and – if you are lucky – Viognier and Semillon (shout out to La Frenz on those ones!).

But there are others out there as well, and they won’t break the bank!

First, south of France. I mentioned Viognier already, but those are usually too expensive from France (Condrieu starts at $60 Canadian…). But there are blends out there, mixes of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, and they can be really refreshing! No oak (usually), crisp, clean, full bodied! One of my favourite producers in the South is Chapoutier and they make a great Cotes du Roussillon called Bila Haut that you can get here for about $17…I imagine it is under $10 in many other places without our taxes!

And how about Italy? Not known for its white wines usually, I have started to drink wines from the Falanghina grape, and they are very tasty! Again, super crisp and dry, no oak that I can see – although they are often a beautiful gold colour – and lots under $20. My favourite right now is Falanghina Sannio La Guardiense by a producer called Janare.

Last but not least my wine find of the year so far! Vinho Verde – literally “green wine” – is from Portugal and my past experiences have been that is not worth the bother. Then I saw one called Loureiro by Quinta do Ameal. What attracted me at first was the rating and review by the Wine Advocate for the 2017 vintage – 93 pts and a drinking window until 2030!

Now, that is ridiculous for a white wine (and even most reds), so I bought one – and it was crazy good! Again, no oak at all (notice the trend here), but beautiful gold colour, crisp, dry, citrus, quite big body. And it was $17!!! A bonus – I found a couple of older vintages in another store (2012 and 2013), same price, same kind of rating, and tried them – stunning! Super fresh, like they had just been bottled!

So there you go…some white wine options for the summer. If you can check them out!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

 

CALIFORNIA WINES MAKING A “VALUE” COME BACK IN BC?

October 29, 2015

Quick question for you – what do the ’13 Dancing Bull Zinfandel, ’12 Smoking Loon Syrah and ’12 Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon have in common?

Yes, they are all from California…and all solid wines. But more importantly, they are all under $20 in BC liquor stores, with the first two being less than $15! And I would bet that for our friends in the US, you can find them for around $10 in Costco or other grocery stores.

My question is…how do they make this kind of quality, at this price, for the BC market?

When I first started getting into wine back in the ‘80s, I drank a lot of California wines. And there were some amazing bargains back then.

But then the Canadian dollar tanked, and for a long time many – most? – California wines just became too expensive. Even four or five years ago when our dollar was at par with the US dollar, the prices just didn’t seem to come down very much, whether it was for the inexpensive wines or the premium ones.

But now, that seems to be changing…even though our dollar is once again falling!

So what gives?

I know the wines I mentioned above – and probably many others – are made in great quantities, which helps keep the per bottle cost down. But still…with our bizarre tax regime, the only way a California wine can sell for $15 is if it “landed” here at under $10, which I assume would be the price in the US (if not less given the exchange range).

Factor in the average price of BC wines now hovering close to $20 – for far lower quality – and it presents an interesting quandary.

And one I don’t have an answer to!

If you know, please pass on the reason. In the meantime, I guess I will be buying ore California wine to drink during the week!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

WHAT IS A BARGAIN, ANYWAY?

August 5, 2015

I was struggling a bit about a topic this week, but then my coaching buddy Jim inadvertently gave it to me at practice this afternoon!

He mentioned going into a local pub’s wine store looking for a red wine to drink with something on the barbecue…California Cab was his focus, and something that wouldn’t break the bank. He was looking around and saw a blend from Bennett Lane for under $25…and it was a 2006! He did a double take, checked the price, and bought a bottle to try.

He said it was – in a word – amazing! So I went there after practice, bought a bottle…and definitely confirmed his initial impression.

But does that make it a bargain?

Well, let’s think about that word…and what it really means!

For some people, it means something “cheap”. That is not a wrong answer, including when it comes to wine. If you can find a $10 wine these days that actually tastes like the grape it is made of, then you have definitely found yourself a bargain!

But it doesn’t have to mean “cheap” either.

At its most basic definition, a “bargain” means getting something at a lower price than you expect to pay. So, technically, that means the actual price doesn’t mean anything at all!

That works for me at the $20 – $30 range. While that is more than I usually pay for “everyday” drinking wine, I can somehow justify it if the wine tastes like it should cost twice as much!

I use the same philosophy with respect to the wines I buy for my cellar. Usually I won’t go over $50 a bottle, and the wine must be rated over 90 points by Parker.

But if I see a wine I love…like Chateauneuf du Pape, or Barolo, or Barbaresco…and it is rated over 95 points…I can justify paying 10 – 15 dollars more because I think it is a “bargain”!

However, I draw the line at wines priced much more than that. Personally, I can’t justify a wine that is $70 or more, no matter what the rating. Yes, it may be a bargain for that kind of wine (Bordeaux or Burgundy comes to mind). But for me…that is just too dear!

So after all that, what is the definition of a bargain? Well, like many things in life…it depends.
But in wine, it comes down to what you like, value…and are willing to pay for!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Value – What it Means and Where to Find It

November 28, 2013

Of all the ‘wine words’ out there, there is perhaps none that is harder to define than ‘value’.

Does it mean, for example, the best cheap wine? Or can you find value wines in all price categories? At the extreme, does that mean for Bordeaux – perhaps the most expensive of wines – can have value wines that cost $80, $90 or even a $100+++?

Well, a few thoughts on what value means to me. Personally, I associate the word mostly with mid-priced wines, say in the $15 – $20 range. Cheaper than that – and I drink lots that are cheaper than that on a regular basis — I tend to call them ‘cheap but good’.

The $20 – $30 category is a tricky one for me. For everyday drinking, I have a hard time thinking that there are any value wines here. Maybe it is the $20 barrier, or I don’t make enough money, or I am cheap…I don’t know! For my cellar, though, that is a whole different story. Wines that can age and develop over an 8 – 10 year period that cost less than $30 — I definitely see those as value cellar wines!

Over $30, I feel there are no everyday values. But the same rule as above applies to my cellar. I rarely spend more than $50 a bottle, so if I can find a highly rated Rhone, Italian, Californian or Australian wine with 10+ years ageability for $30 – $40, I see that as another cellar value.

Also starting at this price range, there are wines that I just don’t see as cellar values, regardless of the rating. Beaujolais, for example, or Malbec. Many BC wines fall into this category as well.

In the $40 – $60 range, all of the above applies, and value for me is tied very closely to a review. I follow Parker and have had good experience with his reviews. And I know that many 90+ rated wines cost from $50 – $100+++. So if I see a highly rated wine of a type that I like and know is usually expensive (and I can’t usually afford it), then I do consider that a cellar value.

Examples? Well, how about Barolo or Barbaresco or Brunello di Montalcino from Italy? Or Hermitage from the northern Cotes du Rhone? Or a reserve bottling from Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas? If I can get these wines for under $60 and their scores are 94 or 95+, then I also consider them values.

And over $60? Well, that doesn’t seem like value to me. I guess if I could find a 100 pt wine for $60 or $70 I might buy it, but I wouldn’t call it a value wine.

So that’s my view on value. In the weeks to come, I will give some actual examples — red and white — that fall into these categories.

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