Posts Tagged ‘wine critics’

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!




September 4, 2013

I experienced a bit of a “conundrum of manners” this past weekend, one that caused me to ponder it for a while – so I thought I would share it with you.

With my wife and daughter away at the Taylor Swift concert – and teenage son otherwise engaged – I thought I would take the opportunity to go check out what was happening at some of the Fraser Valley wineries. But at all three of them, I ran into wines that weren’t bad, but just not my style. At each of them, however, the pourer asked me “what do I think?”

Each time, I hesitated. Partially, because even after 25+ years of wine tasting, I still wonder sometimes whether I actually know what I am talking about. Mostly, though– whether because I am Canadian or just a nice guy – I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.

The result, each time, was that I was “careful” in my assessment. “A little thin” was one comment…”made in a different style” was another. Those kinds of comments were able to get me, mostly, out of trouble.

But then I also wanted to tweet my tastings. And tweets, partially because they are so short, don’t lie.

At first, because tweets are electronic, it thought I was safe. None of them were horrible – after all, none of the wines were “off”. But the reds were more Bordeaux in style, which isn’t what I like, and the whites just didn’t have enough fruit. So that’s what I said.

It was with a bit of horror, however, when I saw that a couple of the wineries retweeted my “least insulting” tweets!?!

On the way home, I thought about what a wine critic could – or should – say. On the one hand, if people are following my advice, I owe them the truth. On the other, however, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

So what to do?

In the end – and after considering what I had actually done and said – I came up with a solution.

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows I am a big fan of ‘style’. It’s not about good and bad wine, just about the style of wine that you like. And that was how I had both talked, and tweeted, about all the wines. It was honest, but not hurtful.

So that is what I will continue to do. I will make sure people know the style of wine I like. If wineries make that style – and the price is right – then I will talk about it favourably. If not, then I won’t necessarily criticize it, but I will say it isn’t my style.

Hopefully that is the kind of compromise that will produce a review that is truthful but not hurtful to the winemaker!



July 10, 2013

There was an interesting article this past weekend in one of our national newspapers – front page, no less – about wine experts, and if they actually know anything. It called into question everything from wine ratings (what makes a 90 point wine vs an 80 point wine) to whether the average person can actually tell “good wine from average wine” in blind tastings.

Now, I don’t know if I would call myself a wine expert. It is definitely a hobby, one that I have been passionately engaged in for over 25 years. And I do give advice and reviews. But I have no formal training – aside from a few courses and membership in some wine associations – and wouldn’t even think to try and explain any of the technical details relating to winemaking.

But, from my perspective, I think this all misses the point. And that’s because taste in wine – like in so many other things in life – is personal. It’s not good or bad, right or wrong (aside from wines that are actually “off”, of course). Echoing the words of a teacher I once had “the best wine is the wine you like the best”.

And that is always the approach I take in reviewing or recommending wines. For the former, I make sure people know what my personal likes are – fruit forward reds, buttery Chardonnays, slightly off-dry Rieslings and Roses, etc. That way, if I say a particular wine is “great”, people will know that statement has some context to it.

I try to do the same thing when people ask me for a wine recommendation. Inevitably, my first question is “What style of wine do you like?” Dry or sweet? Fruity or woody? The answers to those questions are what guide my recommendation. I also ask for a wine they already know they like. If I know it – and its style – I can then probably make recommendations for others (the same price, more expensive and even cheaper) that person will probably like.

I take the same approach (in reverse) when picking wines for my cellar – which I will keep for 5 – 15+ years to develop and mature. Many times these wines cost $40 or more and I can’t afford to just “taste before I buy”. So I need some help.

So I have looked for a reviewer who seems to like the same style of wines as I do. For me, Robert Parker and his associates at the Wine Advocate meet that criterion, particularly when it comes to wines from the Rhone Valley, Italy, California, Oregon and Washington State. I know if they “like” a wine from these areas, it will probably have a lot of fruit in it, and enough of that fruit to age well. So the chances are I will like it too. And that has been my experience since I began relying on the Wine Advocate over 20 years ago.

Interestingly, I don’t go by their reviews for all wines. That’s because I know there are wines and wine regions – Bordeaux, for example, or Spanish Garnachas or most Chilean reds – that I just don’t enjoy, regardless of how “good” they apparently are. I have learned the hard way to just stay away from those wines, even if they get 90+++ scores from the Wine Advocate.

So does all this mean that wine critics are of any use? Well, I think they can be, as long as they think about it from the perspective of the consumer and the style of wine they like. If that’s how they give advice, then they can provide a very useful service in a world of increasingly expensive and – unfortunately – average wine.