Archive for October, 2011

October 26, 2011

Domaine Huet Brut 2005 Vouvray Petillant

First, let’s put aside the French label, the alienating mesh of language which puts off prospective wine buyers, let’s forget that when you learn French and you learn that brut means dry but on French sparkling wine Brut indicates sugar, and is in fact the sweetest, the drier being either Extra Brut or Brut Zero, let’s just not dwell on all that.  And it will be a rare client in YVR who knows that “petillant” means, in a nutshell, fewer bubbles in the bottle.  Let’s just put all that aside.  This is something to really enjoy, semantics be damned.

The Huet 05 Vouvray is a refined, elegant aperitif, glorious at six years.  It puts Prosecco to shame, like soda pop versus fresh squeezed juice.  There is apple, right in the fore.  There is pear, apricot too, but apple, lottsa apple.  The extremely light effervescence seems just exactly correct.  No yeast.  “Loverley” in its dryness.  At 12% alcohol, we give it the OK.  But expensive.  We were 20% through a never-ending do-it-yourself kitchen reno and decided it was time to “reward the contractor” so we justified the expense; double the cost of cheap sparkly, half the cost of the “real” thing.  Very nice compromise.

Price: $38 at Marquis.

Market Liquidity: An impressive special occasion pre-dinner quaff.

October 21, 2011

Cameron Hughes Lot 212 2009 Carneros Chardonnay

Cameron Hughes gets a lot of press in BC.  Marquis has touted his skill as a negociant and there is a special CH event at Everything Wine this fall.  We’ve tried several of his wines and think there’s something “4-Hour Workweek” in the brouhaha; CH has a clever niche where they find some surplus wine, bottle it, and get it to market at prices lower than if it came from a “name” brand.  Unlike, say, Priceline, there’s no wondering where you’ll end up: It’s right on the bottle.  This chardonnay from Carneros, Sonoma.  In BC, that’s nothing to sniff at, especially under $25.


And the wine?  It’s a pleasant, drinkable, buttery, very much in the French style.  Good for pre-dinner drinks, not a cloying chardonnay, and complementary to fish.  Not with the depth we anticipated though, at least  as the label boasted.  We did not get the “banana” or “citrus sorbet” but still loved every drop.  Went back to buy more and it had disappeared; that’s the thing about buying wine in BC—as soon as something good comes along it disappears just as quick.


Price: $22 but with the case discount less.  Sometimes at Marquis; sometimes at Everything Wine.


Market Liquidity: On special, an excellent buy for a versatile white.

October 19, 2011

Dão Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada, 2008

This has a Wine Spectator “Best Value” label on the bottle.  I don’t think a good sign—but we had our hopes up and there was BBQ on the table and it apparently warranted 90 points.  What can I say?  90 points?  I give it a big Seth and Amy SNL “really?”  My mother used to say if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.  Hmmm.  OK, point taken.  Here goes:

Better than Le Piat d’Or

Tastes like red wine

Didn’t kill us


Price: $18.99 at Liberty, $15.99 at Marquis.


Market Liquidity: Life is just too short to bother.

October 17, 2011

Black Hills Estate Winery Nota Bene 2007

From the cellar: In 2009 I received a very nice birthday gift: A bottle of 2007 Nota Bene, the “noted” red blend from Black Hills Estate now owned by a consortium including 90210 alum Jason Priestly.  At the time it was selling for just under $50 and I thought, “what a wonderful birthday gift.”  I laid it down.

This year some friends got together for a dinner, including the guy who gave me the bottle, and I thought I’d pull it out.  We drank it with a spectacular blackened steak salad (blackened BBQ sirloin sliced on micro greens with roasted garlic, charred red peppers and sinful gorgonzola dressing).  The cabernet sauvignon-cabernet franc-merlot blend did not disappoint.  Not one iota.

We didn’t decant, but we did use the Rabbit aerator (aka The Rabbit Aerating Pourer, a pretty overpriced little device for what it does I think…), and it sat in our glasses for a bit while we had cocktails.  I’m a bit torn on all the wine and bar gadgetry you see advertised but with some reservation I have to admit this little bauble works very well and we’ve even much improved everyday plonk with its use.  Another reason not to decant, never mentioned by the wine establishment: 750 ml isn’t very much, especially when there are five at table.  I’m always so shocked when I see a wine steward pour a $200 bottle at, say West restaurant, into an elaborate decanter.  It looks like a Coke-and-a-half…

The 2007 Nota Bene, in late 2011, was over the top.  I really shocked myself—having the discipline to keep it in the cellar two years.  Being a born and bred British Columbian, and remembering the days of BC wine starting and ending with Andrés (now, of course, Andrew Peller, and not the screw top plonk of yore), it’s still hard for me to grasp how stunningly far (some) BC wine has come in less than half a century.  This red blend was balanced, smooth but with depth, luscious, a huge cabernet type mouthful that was indescribably delicious, deep, dark, mysterious, and, yes, I regret describing wine that way but, really, it was simply that special.  Remember the scene in The Godfather at Louis, where Michael shoots McClusky and Sollozzo, who are enjoying some fine Italian food and wine?  If it had to be my last meal, this wine would have been a great way out.  I wish I had been given two bottles!

Downside?  Note Bene’s humble beginnings were a red blend at 14 per cent alcohol.  They’re now just shy of 15 per cent.  I am not a fan of the higher alcohol content and, really, if you’re trying to impress someone, high alcohol content is just a ruse.

I checked out the current vintage (hard to find, but I did see a bottle on Salt Spring Island): $60.  So the question is, three bottles say of Hickinbotham Shiraz Cab, two bottles of Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache, or one bottle of Nota Bene?  Neither of the other two are “quite as good” but given that wine is, ultimately, a social drink (witness the kraters on the home page of this site, a nod to both the very beginnings of wine and its social nature), it makes me hard pressed to want to buy another bottle.  I don’t, after all, have 90210 residuals trickling into the mailbox month after month.  But, as I saw printed on a chalk board recently,

What I like to drink most is wine that belongs to others


it stands that should anyone want to gift me a case of Nota Bene, I can even arrange pick-up.

Price: Expensive.  Good luck in finding any.

Market Liquidity: See last paragraph above.

October 14, 2011

Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2008

On the West Coast we tend to eat a lot of fish and, more often than not, salmon.  Chardonnay and salmon are like bacon and eggs, tomato and basil, a marriage made in heaven.  Picked this up for some wild sockeye; we had a bottle in Oregon and thought it was OK.  It’s an understated chardonnay, inoffensive, easy to drink, hints of tropical fruits, but not quite the “richness and complexity” the label boasts.  It’s the sort of white you might get at a wedding; no one will rave, no one will send it back.  We drank it with fresh sockeye salmon, in season, off the BBQ, and it was wonderful.  No complaints.  But in Canada it’s twice as expensive as the US where we had our first bottle and, true to this blog, it tasted better cheaper.  It’s also surprising that this is the “middle” chardonnay, the Founder’s Reserve is cheaper although we’re not going to test the waters on that.

Price: For less than $15 USD this wine is a must buy (which is probably why Robert Parker called it “stunning value”).  At Everything Wine, with the case discount, $27.59.

Market Liquidity: Better Options Abound.

October 7, 2011

Punch in the Face Shiraz, 2008

This wine is preposterous.  It has a silly label—yes, that picture at left really is the graphic on the front of the bottle—says “kapow” on the reverse, is a tad Fight Club and a little vintage Batman and all 100% totally over the top booze.


Sure, it’s big juicy jammy fruity spit-roasting delectable knock your socks off shiraz.  We had it with a braised brisket (four hours with root vegetables, spectacular), a perfect foil for a big tasty red meat dish.  But 16.7% alcohol?  Really?  Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.  No stars in my books, rather it deserves an equally huge alcoholic Seth and Amy SNL “Really?” with a double swish.


Relevant sidebar: We were in Napa / Sonoma this summer.  While tasting some exceptional zins at a “very reputable” vineyard I told the vintner about some syrah we’d tasted down the road that was nearly 17% alcohol.  She said to me that’s because a) that vineyard waits until the grapes have been on the vine too long, there’s less water and with less water the grapes are cheaper to buy and b) the vintner at that particular house “likes to drink.”  Her words, not mine.  Seemed a bit snarky, but I have to agree—about the unnecessary alcohol content.  Sometimes it’s as though houses are competing for booziness, not body.  For me, for most people (wine reviewers, wine experts excepted, who live it seems in a la la neverland of fine vintages half drunk) wine is social and more often than not an accompaniment to food, a complement.  It’s not something to have two glasses of and need a nap.  One person at the table described it as “spicy” and not in a good way but rather in an Austin Powers mock innuendo.  If there was a good wine that was archetypal as not to my taste, this might be it.


Price: $25.99 at Liberty.


Market Liquidity: Just say no.  Better still, for a dollar less buy a bottle of the uber-refined and super smooth Highwood Distillery 10 year old Centennial Rye widely available across Canada.  It will last twice as long and impress four times as many friends and, when the need arises, get you just as drunk.


Postscript: See our comments on the NYT Wrath of Grapes feature here.

October 6, 2011

Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache, 2008

Punditry: Sambal spicey, Bobby Flay kick.  Not just pepper but spice cabinet dimensions.  Raspberry, plummy, jammy, luscious from the get go.  With food some of the fruit seemed like rhubarb, less lively, but still wonderful.  Absolutely lovely start to finish.  There is nothing not to like except, perhaps, what I thought was a rather shallow finish given the “nez du vin” as the “con-no-sirs” write.  Nice big beautiful red, perfect for a special occasion with a hearty meal.  Oh, and plaudits for another quality bottle with a screw top.


Price: $24.99 at BC Liquor or Everything Wine but with the case discount at EW $23.74.


Market Liquidity: I hate spending over $20 but I loved buying this wine.

October 5, 2011

Stags Hollow SHV Chardonnay, 2008

Simple, lovely, palatable but nothing schmantsy.  Sometimes SH gets it totally right; their Sauv Blanc a few years ago was the best in Canada and we plowed through a case.  But sometimes they don’t.  There is (I find) an unevenness to their wines, year to year. But this chardonnay is something to have lying around the house in threes and fours.

When not too much is just enough:

  • Oak: Not too much.
  • Alcohol: Not too much (13.2%)
  • Price: Not too much (under $17).

Why are people buying Ozzie plonk when there’s this wonderful local everyday white?

Price: $16.95 at Village VQA.  (And they have it in the cooler at no extra cost.  Too bad BC Liquor couldn’t do the same…)

Market Liquidity: A superb house wine / everyday white.

October 4, 2011

Sandhill Small Lots Cabernet Syrah 2007

Not the bottle we drank...

I love the Sandhill Small Lots wines.  I hate the cost of Sandhill Small Lots wines (most $30 or more).  I am therefore torn: There’s good wine for less but there’s worse wine for more.  When it comes to BC reds, there is, too, a lot of pomp, posturing and pretense.  Not with the SSL wines; they stand to be judged without the conceit that somehow, by dint of being local, we should give them a break.

Although my favorite is the Barbera, the Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah blend is a beautiful bottle.  I call the Cab/Syrah blend their “Breck” red: It’s full bodied with no loose ends.  But it’s also a touch of Apocalypse Now, deep, dark, mysterious.  Pepper, leather, vanilla.  “Raid the spice cabinet” said one sipper.  All that said, no one got the “fruitcake” or the “chocolate finish” the vintner had put on the label as a guide; that did (to us) seem pompous.  That is because we are no con-no-sirs, uncouth and unskilled!  No matter.  If you’ve got cash burning a hole in your pocket, this is spectacular with meatballs.  We recommend pork and beef.

Price: $30 at Village VQA.

Market Liquidity: A great blend that is overpriced.

October 3, 2011

Alkoomi Frankland River Riesling, 2005

We picked up some 2005 Alkoomi Riesling from Liberty (as of this blog entry Alkoomi is only available at private retailers, and rarely at that).  Where has that Riesling been sitting all these years?  Surely I write (in a little jest) in a temperature controlled room with perfect humidity for the best part of a decade…

There are some “unusual suspects” up at the Point Grey Liberty.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in grandma’s attic.  I’ve picked up whites that are “past” and recently a ten year old cru Beaujolais that was OK; it’s luck of the draw but also sort of exciting.  A few years back I raided their half bottles of Rully, one of the few affordable Burgundies in YVR which came in under $30.  I have an extra special spot for Alkoomi because I had never drunk any until I stumbled across it in Western Australia.  (I would love to wax on here about the delectable magical and mouthwatering wines of  Western Australia, about sitting on the porch at lunch at the spectacular Leeuwin Estate in virtual heaven, about how much better Cape Mentelle is to the over-hyped Cloudy Bay, but you will just have to believe me, WA is a shockingly wonderful wine destination, stop reading and book your ticket.)  A month later I raved about it back in New South Wales but they pretended to not know what I was talking about (the east-west wine rivalry in Australia has a wonderful flair…)  Anyway, we coughed up the $29.99 (about half that south of the border).  I thought it was a crap shoot but hey, I wouldn’t have had the discipline to keep it in the cellar all that time, so think of it as capital gains tax.

Fresh out of the fridge: A disappointment, too cold.  But we let it sit and it opened up beautifully.  It was one of those wines that tasted just like the tasting notes on the label (rarer than you may think).  Superlatively dry and crisp.  A golden hue, half warm a golden nectar.  We loved, loved the long chardonnay-esque finish.  And as we sipped the whole bottle every glass had a slightly different finish.  It was like the Zelig of Rieslings.

Price: $29.99 at Liberty, if they still have it.

Market Liquidity: Way out of my everyday price range so, no, I won’t recommend it.  But sometimes a change is good, and this had sentimental value.  If you’re in the mood for adventure and your 1.2% interest from ING has come in, try it.