Category Archives: Rich Red Wine

Meyer Family Vineyards McLean Creek Pinot Noir 2011

Okanagan BC, $40

I was in Oregon’s Willamette Valley two weeks ago, and two things struck me. The first is it’s amazing to see what specialization can do for a region. Both Oregon and BC started seriously growing around the same but whereas they hitched their wagon early-on to Pinot Noir, we bounced around trying all sorts of varietals. As a result they’re known for world-class Pinot while we’re still seeking our place. True, they could never successfully grow some of the varietals we can (like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc….) but I don’t think you can underestimate the power of a tighter focus.

The other thing is how good a value our Pinot is at the top end. Most estate wine in Oregon starts at $50 US and the single vineyard varietals can be easily double that. In BC, our high-end single vineyard isgenerally in the $40-45 range and while it’s a small group, they produce wines I’d be proud to serve alongside their American brethren. A case in point is this $40 Pinot for Meyer Family Vineyards. This is one of my favourite wineries in BC and this wine is elegant and fresh, but not thin. Great dark cherry and cedar notes. It’s not as big as a Russian River Pinot, but not as austere as Oregon—and sweet spot where all of our great Pinots seem to land. A seriously good gift bottle for any BC skeptic.

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Laughing Stock Portfolio 2006

BC

Aging wine is such a dicey proposition. You have so many variables—temperature, light, tannins, wines entering “dumb” periods when their aromas shut down—in play that it’s always a crap shoot what the result will be. But people still do it because when it all works out, it’s such a revelation. I was thinking about all of this last week at Whistler’s Cornucopia with my nose deep in a bottle of Laughing Stock’s Portfolio from 2006. It had the heady, slightly musty nose that shows the wine has been hanging out for a long while. And while the tannins had softened, it was still a pretty formidable wine with deep black fruit notes and a muscular structure that showed just how well Merlot (which is the majority of blend) grows on the Naramata Bench. It was drinking really well, but my guess is it’ll continue to do so for the next several years. Good luck finding a bottle—though the 2011 vintage is available in magnum ($100) and the always awesome double magnum ($200) if you are in possession of just a little patience.

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Cabriz Colheita Selecionada 2008

Cabriz Colheita Selecionnada 2008

Portugal, $20

The one question I get most often is “Can you recommend a great red for under $15?” and the difficultly I have in answering is through no fault of serious testing. On a normal Tuesday night, I’m not sipping a Barolo or an aged Bordeaux, but usually looking for something pleasing to go with casual fare that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The problem with most wine in this price range is that they’re either too sweet and extracted with plenty of fruit all at once and nothing else (hello New World) or too grungy and rustic (hello Old World). But once in a while there comes a wine that brings the sublime mixture of fruit, acidity, long finish and price that immediately has you say “I’ll take a case.” This is that wine.

As is usual with Portuguese wine the grapes are not the usual suspects: the awesomely named Alfocheiro is the base, backed up by Tinto Roriz (that’s Tempranillo to the rest of the world) and Touriga Nacional. The first sip evokes a mason jar of wild raspberry jam, followed by the structure and dryness that lengthens out the finish with more savory notes. It’s a little wild, but in the most enjoyable sense of the word—an amusement park ride more than a car wreck. Had I tasted blind I would have lost a mortgage payment had you bet me it was under $25. At under $15, it’s the best deal I’ve tasted in 2013

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Stag’s Hollow Syrah 2010

Stag's Hollow Syrah 2010

 British Columbia, $28

I just finished a piece on the Okanagan for our friends at Seattle Magazine and I loved the opportunity to wax about a region that most Washington State folk would be blown away by (their wine regions, while great for grapes, won’t win any beauty contests anytime soon). As part of the exercise, I had to choose five bottles worth bringing back, and for Syrah I chose one from the excellent Nichol Vineyard. But this week, the winemakers from Okanagan Falls were in town and I had occasion to re-try Stag’s Hollow’s version, and damned if I’m not second-guessing myself.

It’s classic Rhone-style with some (8.5%) Viognier thrown in, and it’s just exquisite. One the attributes of Syrah that most people find a head-scratcher is when tasters says it evokes cooked sausages—what they hell does that mean? Well, one sip of this wine will demonstrate like no amount of words can this meaty, juicy attribute. At a later date, I’ll talk about some of the great things owner Larry Gerelus and winemaker Dwight Sick are doing with Tempranillo, but for now, track down this Syrah.

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Moon Curser Malbec 2010

Moon Curser Malbec 2010
British Columbia, $13

There’s some sort of ridiculous “World” or “National” Insert Name of Product You Wish to Peddle Day for every day of the year. Tomorrow it’s World Malbec Day, no doubt dreamed up by a cabal of South American vintners who aren’t satisfied that their enjoyable inexpensive wine has not yet total market domination. And while I’m not playing along, it did get me thinking about the conundrum that is Malbec and the seeming increase in acreage for the grape in the Okanagan. I’m far from convinced that selling $25-45 Malbecs is a sound business plan when Argentina can go toe to toe at under $20, but there are a few vintners that are interested in trying to extract a little more character and a lot more body from the grape than we’re used to.

At the top of this list is Osoyoos’ Moon Curser, who seem to love rehabilitation projects—they make a massive Petit Verdot and use large proportion of Tannat in their Dead of Night blend. Their Malbec is $30 and tough to find (it’s sold out at the winery) but if you track a bottle down, you’ll be rewarded with a wine that bears little resemblance to Finca Los Primos or any other sub-$15 Argentine import. It’s dark, heavy and needs a few years or at least some decanting and an hour or two of air to settle down. When it does, it shows some nice complexity with plum, spice and dark cherry—all in all a good way to spend World Malbec Day.

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