Monthly Archives: June 2012

Canadian Wines for Canada Day

2011 Martin’s Lane Riesling
Okanagan, $25

Here’s the latest candidate for best value wine in the Okanagan. $25 for a Riesling a value? When it’s a handcrafted small production (400 cases) beauty like this the comparison is not Mission Hill’s neighbours, but the heavy hitters of Alsace—few of whom can offer a wine that has the combination of balanced acidity (this one’s great with food or without) with a concentration of peach and mineral backbone. This wine is tough to find, so if you strike out, there always Joie’s killer Riesling, dependable in the way that Gretzky was—that is, dependably stellar.


2010 Laughing Stock Syrah
Okanagan, $34

I can’t recall ever being disappointed in a Laughing Stock wine, and while the flagship blockbuster Portfolio gets universal love from the critics, for a casual Canada Day barbecue, its relatively new Syrah is the best choice. It’s made in the Northern Rhone style, with 6 percent viognier thrown in to settle down the syrah. It’s boozy at 14.7 percent, but it carries the alcohol like a dancer and gives a full mouth feel without ever attracting the heat of high alcohol. Plus the bottle, as always, looks supremely cool tucked under your arm as you arrive at the shindig.


Sandhill Hidden Terrace Vineyard Pinot Gris and King Family Vineyard Pinot Gris

Sandhill Hidden Terrace Vineyard Pinot Gris and King Family Vineyard Pinot Gris
B.C., $19

While ace wine tasters can have a sip and instantly remember a similar glass they had on an Alaskan cruise 11 years ago (or at least they say they can), for most of us, the best way to taste wine is side by side. Similar wines allows you to get what the winemaker is talking about with terroir, ripeness and the myriad of elements that go into the final bottling. So here’s the fun: go snag a bottle each of the Sandhill Hidden Terrace Vineyard Pinot Gris and the King Family Vineyard Pinot Gris and drink them side-by-side. 2011 was not a stellar year but winemakers, like Sandhill’s veteran Howard Soon, who managed the conditions well (most importantly dropping fruit/cutting back grape clusters) made some wonderful white wines. These two vineyards are only about 42 km apart but they’re different ages (Hidden Terrace vines are much younger) and elevations. And while the wines share plenty of characteristics: pear and peach flavours, melon and solid acidity; but one wine seems to be a little rounder and softer, the other bracing and lively. Try them and let me know which is which.

2009 Tribunal Sonoma County

2009 Tribunal Sonoma County
California, $19.99

The solid under $20 is a tough nut to crack these days—a phrase that pains me to write. This all over the map blend from Sonoma—Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Cab Fran, Primitivo, Merlot, Syrah, Barbera and Grenache, phew!— could be a hot mess but somehow it all works and it’s become a bit of a go to wine for me. I’ve heard it described as a mini-version of Orin Swift’s excellent The Prisoner and it’s a great comparison: both wines have a lot of Zin, but through in a bunch of other elements to give complexity and tame Zin’s boozy tendencies. Truth be told, despite the small presence of Sangiovese, Primitivo and Barbera, this wine really is a bit too big and rich to go with most pasta. It’s meaty and round with a lot of ripe berry, coffee and smoke going on. Nice on its own or with a slab of pepper-crusted beef.

Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot 2010

Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot 2010
Washington, $20

Charles Smith is one of those crazy-haired dudes that people always call a “Rock Star” winemaker. I think it means he doesn’t follow the rules and while that’s probably true compared to Baron Eric de Rothschild, this rock star has quietly become one of Washington’s most successful winemakers. His K Syrah’s are among the best (and most pricey) in the state. His lower priced Kung-Fu Girl Riesling is a stellar deal and available in most grocery stores south of the border. And this wine—an explosive chocolate and berry filled merlot—is likewise a smoking value down south at $12, and still good deal here at about $20. Small price to hang with a rock star.