Monthly Archives: October 2013

Dao Grao Vasco 2012

 Portugal, $10

I’m working on a long piece about the new high-end Portuguese wines for our upcoming issue, so I’m in an Iberian frame of mind. The dominant image I have in my mind from this week’s bottle comes from a four-hour layover I had at the Lisbon Airport last fall. As I was settling in with myless-than-exciting food court lunch, I saw a gentleman in his mid-50’s, dressed quite nicely, sit down at an adjoining table. To go with his sandwich he had purchased an entire 750 mL bottle of Dao Grao Vasco, and over the course of the next 30 mins polished off the whole thing, whereupon he courteously cleared his tray and headed off for his flight. Ah, Europe.

Generally, wine available in airport food courts is wretched the world over, but that gentleman was on to something in this case. In the past, cheap Dao wines were something to truly fear, but this oddball blend of grapes (Jaen, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Pinheira and Touriga Nacional) manages to channel a back alley Barolo vibe that I sort of love: dry, dark cherrieswith a swack of spice and a medium body. For under $10, it’s damn near impossible to beat—just be discrete if you want to whip it out at your next Canadian food court lunch.

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Serendipity Sauvignon Blanc 2012

BC, $12

Sauvignon Blanc is a tough one. It reaches some great heights in the old world (Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, but also as a team layer in Sauternes) but with a few exceptions for the most part (apologies to Sonoma’s Merry Edwards) its expression in North America could be best described as functional—it’s pleasant, agreeable and consistent. That all changed when the Kiwis got into the game and I think it’s fair to say that their transformation of the grape into a powerhouse has been the greatest white wine story of the past decade. Kim Crawford, Oyster Bay and Cloudy Bay are all names that have become worldwide players largely on the strength of their reasonably-priced Sauvignon. And yet, there are those who still shun the grape, not because of lack of texture and flavour, but because the very consistency that the kiwis produce it with is numbingly efficient. Sometimes you can never win.

All of which makes me wonder what sort of masochist would grow it in the Okanagan. With our insane land prices and Sauvignon Blanc’s association with lower cost wines (even the priciest Sancerre still checks in at 2 figures) it would have to be a labour of love—and it seems to be with Serendipity’s Judy Kingston. If you like the flinty austerity of Pouilly Fume, I’d probably take a pass, but if you’re a fan of the Kiwi style there are notes here you’ll love. First and foremost is the strongest and clearest grapefruit expression I’ve come across in a long while, followed up with some melon and lime. It’s intense and miles away from the insipid style that once marked this varietal.

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Anciano Gran Reserva 2003

Anciano Gran Reserva 2003

Spain, $14

There are some amazing Sauvignon Blancs coming out of Chile’s emerging wine regions. They’re miles better but quite a bit pricier (at $20), and they make for the worst hostess gift you can bring. Unless they’re a serious wine geek, they’ll look at the label, see Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and think “Thanks for nothing, you cheap screw.” Conversely, this week’s wine may be the best (affordable) bottle you can give. You hand it to the host and theylook down and see Gran Reserva, 2003, Spain and that funny netting the Spaniards love and think “Here is a person of substance.” And you’ll have spent $6 less. You’d have to be a Wine P.I to notice that the wine is from the Valdepenas region, not the more famous Rioja that it mimics, and even still it’s an amazing bargain. Best of all, it’s very approachable—the age and modern winemaking have taken all the edge of this wine and the result is smooth and velvety trip with some residual spicy notes. It’s a laughably good bargain.

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Marques de Caceres Rioja Rosado 2011

Spain, $17

I appreciate the art of food and wine pairing and I generally try to subscribe to the broad principles, but I have to admit theyearly hand-wring over what to pair with turkey gets a bit much. For starters, I always open and start drinking the first bottle well before anybody sits down to turkey. We’re usually mulling about snacking on nuts or cheese or whatever starter someone has brought—none of which will likely be an ideal match for a wine that I’ve sourced specifically for turkey, and depending on the cheese it may be the perfect enemy for an aged Burgundy. So my advice: relax on the matchy-matchy a bit. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, crack the cork man—it’ll go with something on the Thanksgiving plate and it’s unlikely to ruin anything. But I suppose if you’re hell-bent on having one wine that can cover all you bases you could do worse than the Rioja Rosado from the stellar Spanish producers Marques de Caceres, a serious pink wine that starts out light and playful but has enough tartness and spirit to fight through the numerous ladles of gravy that you’ll doubtless douse everything with.

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Hester Creek 2012 Chardonnay

hester-creek-chardonnay (1)Oliver BC, $25

Hester Creek has been one of the Okanagan’s best performing wineries for the last few years. Their Character Red and White blends are, at $20 and $18 respectively, easily among the regions best deals. I chronicled my affection for their heavy-hitting The Judge a few month back (link: Hester Creek The Judge 2007 ) And they make, hands down, the country’s best trebbiano. (Well, it’s the country’s only trebbiano, but still.) So if there was ever a oenological case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, it’s Hester Creek. But they didn’t have a classical Chardonnay and while that milieu has suffered in years past, it seems to be making a bit of a comeback (Foxtrot, Harry McWatter’s Time, Mission Hill’s Perpetua) these days. Hester Creek’s entry is restrained—it’s neither buttery, nor oak-y—but there’s still some richness that’s offset by a slight citrus bite. At $25 it, as usual, well-priced.

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