Tag Archives: BC

Bartier Scholefield Red 2011

bartier-scholefield-red

BC, $20

“Respect for tradition.” It’s a line on the back of this bottle of wine and it’s by all means an admirable sentiment in the wine world—I just don’t have any idea how it found itself on the back of a wine that blends Merlot with Syrah (a little odd), Gamay (supremely odd) and Pinot Noir (Zelda Fitzgerald crazy). Thankfully, when you know the rules, then you can break them and there are few teams more aware of how unorthodox this blend is than winemaker Michael Bartier and partner David Scholefield. And what they’ve created is a wine that by defying convention has become one of the more memorable BC wines out there. If the Loire made Merlot it would taste like this—light and supremely fresh—but I find that there’s a not-subtle undercurrent of pepper and spice that keeps the wine from being more than “summer sipper”. It’s a wine that I can see Jon Rimmerman, the globetrotting wine merchant behind garagiste, raving about. It’s unique, it’s handcrafted and speaks to a place. Oh, and it’s $20. Not bad for a vanguard.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged , , ,

Township 7 Reserve 7

Township 7 Reserve 7

BC, $34.95

I was back in Alberta for the long weekend and I brought a slew of BC wines to try with friends who either don’t have access or have preconceived ideas about BC wines that I’m anxious to disabuse them of. I will say I continue to be disheartened by the prices that wine in AB has climbed to. I remember when privatization first arrived—Veuve Cliquot Le Grande Dame for $65!—but now it seems that the only great deals are in the whisky area (Superstore sells Laphroaig Quarter Cask for $40.50). BC wine in particular is really expensive, prohibitively so, so it was nice to arrive with a few bottles. My fave was a bottle of Township 7 Reserve 7 from 2007. When I first tasted this wine on release, I noted that it was big fairly tannic and needed time, but I didn’t really know—I had no track record of tasting the wine and the entire Okanagan track record is still being written. In any event, by good fortune my educated guess turned out to be right on the money. The wine I had remembered as a beast has morphed into something great, full of rich, juicy flavours—red currant and cherries dominate—with a long, lingering finish. A really nice bottle that I’m sure won over a few more BC wine converts, and a great indication of a winery that’s doing something right. The New 2010 vintage ($34.95) is arriving soon and I expect good things.

Tagged , ,

Moon Curser Touriga Nacional

Moon Curser Touriga Nacional

BC, $35

Wine geeks love nothing more than the experimenting winemakers who plant all sorts of off–the–wall grapes in unexpected places. Partly, it’s respect for their pioneering spirit, and partly it’s because after a day of tasting perfectly crafted Syrahs from Washington State, you’re just happy to have an imperfectly crafted Sangiovese from Washington State. But even within this group of rule breakers, there are guidelines. Never take on Portugal’s signature grape—Touriga Nacional is one. The reasons here are a few:

1. It’s hellishly hard to grow;

2. When it does grow, its yields are low;

3. Even if everything goes perfectly, no one but a handful of geeks even care about the grape—heck, but for Port (which itself isn’t the draw it used to be), the Portuguese have trouble selling the grape for a profit.

But some dreamers have to learn the hard way, or so I thought when I opened a bottle of Touriga from Osoyoos’ Moon Curser. It’s not only the only Touriga grown in Canada, it’s the first bottle of Touriga I’ve seen from anywhere in North America for ages. But there’s always some wizard who thinks he can beat the system, I thought as I leaned in for a sniff. Classic spicy leather and earth. Heavy and intoxicating and in the mouth: whoa, baby. The tannins are there, but not overpowering and paired with exotic waves of spice, pepper and deep dark primal black fruit. It tastes like an $80 of ultra–premium wine form the Douro. An amazing accomplishment from Chris and Beata Tolley.

PS – There were only 2 barrels of this wine made so sourcing it may be a trick. My advice is:

1. Look hard;

2. Get on their list for next year;

3. If not, grab a bottle of Moon Curser’s also excellent, also unique Petit Verdot ($29) or almost anything in their portfolio. This is one of the handful of wineries in the Okanagan that are doing really exciting things so get to know them right now.

Tagged , , ,

Terravista Fandango 2011

Terravista Fandango 2011

BC, $25
If I’m being painfully honest here, this week’s wine is exactly the type of wine that I’d normally breeze by—it’s a $25 Okanagan white with a “playful”label and a “fun” name. But there are a few reasons
I didn’t.

Firstly, my pal Kurtis Kolt said it was good. Secondly the varietals used—Albarino and Verdejo—are two of my faves from Spain and not only are they rarely grown in BC as far as I know, they’re rarely blended together—not just here, but anywhere in the world. Google “Albarino Verdejo blend“ and this wine is the only one that comes up. Thirdly, the wine comes from Senka and Bob Tenant, the duo who founded Black Hills winery back in the day and made Note Bene into what was once upon a time the West’s first cult wine. And I am much the richer for having tried it.

The wine addresses the number one complaint many have about albarino—it’s bracing acidity—by pairing it with the softer more fruit driven verdejo and the result is a wine that still retains a balance that skews towards food but can also stand alone as aperitif. A welcome break from the Okanagan’s endless march of Pinot Gris.

Tagged , , , , ,

Hester Creek The Judge 2007

Hester Creek The Judge 2007

BC, $45

One of the most esoteric functions of the wine writer/reviewer is the prognostication of when the wine should be drunk. The truth is, it’s hellishly hard to know. You generally try to gauge the tightness and denseness of the tannins and structure and guestimate when they might come around to softening. And if you’re wrong, hope that everyone has forgotten by the time the reader finally rolls around to opening the wine. To make things even more difficult, wines that used to be built to age —Bordeaux being a prime example—are often drinking wonderfully of out of the gate.

I tried this week’s wine—the Bordeaux-inspired flagship wine from Hester Creek—2 years ago and it was quite dense and had a few hard notes in it. I assumed it would work best after mellowing out for 5 years plus. But I tried it again last week over a casual dinner of burgers, and it is completely hitting its stride. It had lost none of its power—you still get waves of slightly sweet dark fruit—but it’s shed all off its faults. This is clearly a new world wine, but if you love that easily approachable flavor profile, then this wine is drinking beautifully.

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , ,