Monthly Archives: April 2012

Richmond Plains Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Richmond Plains Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2009
New Zealand, $14.99 +756874

I’ll cop to getting a bit of palate fatigue from New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but only because they are so prevalent due to their excellent value. The key is not to break from NZ SB altogether but to move north of Marlborough to sample different styles. This offering from organic winemaker Richmond Plains is still a South Island wine, but it’s from Nelson (which is on the north part of the island) so its style has less of that hard acidic bite you find in Oyster Bay or Kim Crawford. It also has strong citrus notes, making it a good match for ceviche.

Columbia Crest H3 Horse Heaven Vineyard Merlot 2008

Columbia Crest H3 Horse Heaven Vineyard Merlot 2008
Washington, $23

I’m all for boutique producers who slave over small vineyards and hand craft miniscule quantities of wine: it’s passionate and exciting. But if there’s a wine category that I have the utmost faith in, it’s the premium line from a large producer. For starters, they have the financial clout to get their pick of vineyards and grapes. Second, they have already invested in cutting-edge machinery to produce vast amounts of their basic wine, so the cost of technological upgrades isn’t stuck solely on you, the buyer. Third, the brave souls who make everyday wine for the majority of their career get really excited when they get to work on a boutique project.

The confluence of these factors is a bottle like this excellent Merlot from Washington. I’m don’t think I’ve ever had a bad bottle from Columbia Crest (they’re part of the mammoth Chateau Ste. Michelle group) and their H3 line represents some of the best value and most consistent wines available in Canada. The Merlot has waves of red berry flavour and enough of a hint of tobacco and earth to let you know it’s serious. Ignore the fact that in the US this is $12 bottle of wine and focus on the fact that if it were from Italy, France or even Canada, it would be $40.

Bremerton Langhorne Creek Verdelho 2010

Bremerton Langhorne Creek Verdelho 2010
Australia; $16 in BC, $13.50 in AB

In the magazine this month, we take a look at Spain’s wonderful Verdejo grape. It’s versatile, floral and usually well-priced, which makes it all the more frustrating that it’s so tough to find here. Luckily, our Aussie pals make it too (they spell it Verdelho) and this version from Langhorne Creek’s Bremerton winery goes perfectly with the mango in chef Torr Kelso’s scallop recipe: expect citrus, pineapple and green melon flavours.

Road 13 Vineyards Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2008


Road 13 Vineyards Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2008
BC, $35

Road 13 has been such a solid performer for the past few years that when I heard they were adding a sparkling wine to their portfolio, I was fairly confident that it would be good. Surprisingly, instead of taking the safe route of making a classic bottling with a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, they took a serious flier and made it with the slightly sweeter, far less austere Chenin Blanc—and in so doing have created Loire-style sparkling wine remniscent of a floating bushel of green apples and ripe pears. And they’ve topped it with a no-nonsense beer cap to show that, bubbles or not, they’re still keeping it real.

Zind Humbrecht Riesling Brand Vendage Tardive

Zind Humbrecht Riesling Brand Vendage Tardive
Alsace 2006 $55

Champagne is a great special occasion wine, but it’s a little bit easy no? The problem with bubbles is that it’s expensive so to snag a bottle you’re looking at $75 minimum, a price most consumer’s rarely consider dropping on a bottle of table wine. But why not? Take this excellent bottling from one of Alsace’s premier vintners. At $55 it’s not cheap but it’s about $20 less an ubiquitous bottle of Veuve Cliquot and you’ll be blown away by it’s honey and citrus notes cradled in a bracing acidity.

Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda 2009

Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda 2009
Argentina, $12.99 +369066

We’ve been harping about Bonarda for a few years, but it seems that for North American palates Malbec still remains supreme as Argentina’s signature grape. Don’t get us wrong-we couldn’t live without the ever versatile, ever affordable Malbec, but once in a while-like when we’re making Rob Belcham’s awesome pink salmon recipe-we need a little finesse and a tad more lightness. That’s when Bonarda comes in handy. Made from 30-year-old vines, it sees no oak to keep its vibrant strawberry and raspberry flavours singing. They’ve spiffied up their label since we last wrote about them but thankfully the price is still a major deal.

Road 13 Vineyards Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2008


Road 13 Vineyards Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2008
BC, $35

Road 13 has been such a solid performer for the past few years that when I heard they were adding a sparkling wine to their portfolio, I was fairly confident that it would be good. Surprisingly, instead of taking the safe route of making a classic bottling with a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, they took a serious flier and made it with the slightly sweeter, far less austere Chenin Blanc—and in so doing have created Loire-style sparkling wine remniscent of a floating bushel of green apples and ripe pears. And they’ve topped it with a no-nonsense beer cap to show that, bubbles or not, they’re still keeping it real.

Caymus Special Selection 2009

Caymus Special Selection 2009
California, $125

Caymus owner Chuck Wagner was in Vancouver last weekend for the Playhouse International Wine Festival. To call this California winemaking legend a straight shooter is an understatement: in a room full of wine geeks, he had no problem singing the praises of mechanical harvesters, drinking cabernet young and acknowledging the difficulty in telling well-grown merlot from well-grown cabernet. All of which would be heresy but for the fact that he has the goods to back it—his Caymus Special Selection is the only wine that’s won Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year twice.

This year’s Special Selection is classic Napa cabernet: broad-shouldered and full of fruit with huge taste in the mouth. When you’re looking for a special occasion wine—and at around $125 this definitely qualifies—this is what you want. Not some aged German riesling, not the roulette table that is Burgundy, but a California cab that delivers with every vintage.

Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo

Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo
Italy, $22

Finding Italian wines that will be loved by all palates and are great vintage after vintage is easy. Finding the ones that do that for under $40 that a trick—under $25 and you should be knighted. But this great offering for Tommasi is only $22 and blends the luscious fruit of sangiovese with the leather and espresso backbone of cabernet sauvignon. A very enjoyable wine.