Archive for July, 2012

July 30, 2012

Thornhaven Gewurztraminer, 2010

This wine has won numerous plaudits including the BC Lieutenant Governor’s Award.  It hardly needs a thrift-minded anti-wine-snob to weigh in with adjectives.  It is good, very good for what it is, and deserves every ounce of praise.  It was spectacular with a pan fried fresh trout but equally good as an aperitif with some local cheese and dried fruit (although not heady enough to do justice with homemade gazpacho).  If you surfed here from page 10 of a Google search looking for flavour notes you are either bored or made a mistake.  Quick: Click back and search for a retailer.

 

So, superfluous adjectives aside, I will however editorialize: Light, elegant, nuanced whites should be the backbone of the Okanagan.  The simple fact that Thornhaven can produce this much quality, and bring it in under $20, should set the stage for more and better vintages from Naramata to Cawston.  Cripes, BC could give Germany, Switzerland and Alsace a run for their money with nectar like this; but you know that’s a pipe dream.  We will continue the endless pursuit of better reds, priced at twice what you can already get from other New World vineyards, in a largely mistaken quest to be something we can never be: Internationally price competitive with robust reds.  Praise to those who break the trend.

 

Price: A superb value at $19.90 at your friendly VQA stores.

 

Market Liquidity: What price glory?  Under $20 at Thornheaven, er Thornhaven.

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July 26, 2012

Leyda Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

A startlingly sharp SB that might catch you off guard.  Not deeply herbaceous like a Kiwi SB, but flat out crisp grapefruit and lime that will almost sting your palate.  Too astringent as a sipper (in fact we considered opening a different bottle, but it was after all a weeknight).  However, with food surprisingly splendid (with a light summer dinner of fresh soup, semi-soft French cheese—a dream with a sheep’s milk Etorki from the Pyrenees—bread and salad).  Everything else on the tongue tempered its more extreme tangents.  We were advised by the “expert consultant” that this would display enormous complexity and depth.  We didn’t find that; we found it forward and a little less-than-three dimensional.  So, yet again, the experts know better than the clients it seems.

 

Price: $18.99 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: No harm no foul.

July 25, 2012

Rutherford Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel, 2009

A lovely Napa red.  Alcoholic on the nose, even with air, sharp on the tongue, but luscious fruit and burnt coffee flavours with a long and appealing cherry finish.  Smooth—not a glossy smooth Zin, but no potholes either.  It sipped better than with food we thought; with dinner it was quite peppery with a finish of vanilla but still wonderfully palatable.

 

OK, that’s the good news.  On the flip side however, although, unfortunately, it must be said: 15.5 per cent alcohol.  Jesus, Joseph, Mary and the Apostles.  You will rise from the dead, hallelujah, but oh how your head will hurt.  At that percentage point I’d rather be drinking sherry

 

Price: $16.99 USD; not available in BC but Legacy has the chardonnay for $25.

 

Market Liquidity: Beautiful (for those who can tolerate the hit).

July 23, 2012

Huet Vouvray, Le Haut-Lieu Sec, 2001

From the cellar: Dug out a lone bottle of Le Haut Lieu Vouvray Sec which was just begging to be taken outside for some sunshine and deck time.  Opened up like fruit punch.  Peach and peach fuzz, a strong flavour reminiscent of wet rock (what wine reviewers commonly call limestone, although I’m not an expert on the mineral palette).  Apple followed with a citrus twist on the finish which I’ll artfully call pomelo.

 

As an aperitif bone dry and sharp and calling out for something (maybe a cheese crisp or a pistachio, something to cut the acid).  With food (a wonderful patio summer dinner of cold chicken—a marinated free range spatchcock bbq’d earlier—with fresh summer vegetables and some spiced apricots) quit nice, refreshing, a decent 12 per cent alcohol.

 

Not stellar.  Not like the 2009 sec reviewed here or the fabulous petillant (which I must get off my butt and review).  Also, I’m not confident this was the “keeper” the reviewers claimed back in the day (I had clipped an “expert” opinion stating this could rest until 2018…).  Still, I would take a case of anything from Huet. They make interesting, out-of-the-ordinary wine that is a break from trends and dominant tastes.

 

Price: I didn’t record it.  Probably $40+ at Marquis who sells Huet locally (the 2009 was $34).

 

Market Liquidity: It was what it was.

July 18, 2012

La Frenz Rattlesnake Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, 2011

A very light, likeable and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc—perfect for a hot day under the shade of an umbrella on a patio overlooking Okanagan Lake.  If you gravitate to the heavier types of SB, the straw, metallic and green-ness typified in New Zealand SBs, this will disappoint.  But if you are up for a super sipper, with a thoroughly respectable 12 per cent alcohol, this will reward, particularly at lunch.  And not too steep, although NZ, again, undercuts on the bargain front.

 

With food (a Zara’s stuffed wild mushroom fresh pasta) it was mediocre and the acid notes, a lemony zest, drowned out pleasant notes of pear, melon and tropical fruit.  So stand alone a standout, summer breeze, as a food accompaniment so-so; you’d be better off with a Kiwi competitor.

 

We did not notice what the winemaker’s did (minerality?  What minerality?  And not a nuance of fresh cut grass which, I might point out in passing, is one of the strongest most potent natural smells and can in large doses be toxic!).  No, we found this identifiably SB but gentle on your mind.

 

Price: $22 from the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: It will blow through the jasmine of your mind.

July 12, 2012

La Frenz Naramata Bench Riesling, 2011

A very pleasant sipper with dominant notes of apple, pear, some acid and a gentle, nominal effervescence.  Not astounding, seemed a bit lacking in dimension, and not quite as rich and interesting for us as many Australian Rieslings, but no regrets.

 

We had a glass before dinner which was “what’s left in the fridge” night: A buttermilk frittata with onion, red pepper, Oyama cured sausage and some steamed corn.  This would have paired better with either a Riesling with more fruit (say the Alkoomi) or a Sauv Bl with a heavy green tart twist.  Still, nothing left to cork!

 

Three stars, four stars, five stars, whatever stars for 11 per cent alcohol.

 

Price: A very reasonable $20 from the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: Wine snobs will gravitate to the Viognier, such is life.

July 11, 2012

Sperling Vineyards Market White, 2010

Thai green curry on scented rice and a cucumber salad

A pretty ordinary not too much to write a review about white which, however, I usually have a bottle of in the fridge.  Or two.  Even though I think it’s a touch too forward on the acid side and without enough depth to make it guest-worthy it’s inexpensive and exceptionally versatile.  We eat a lot of Asian food, Indian, Thai, Chinese, as well light fare (fish in filo say or a vegetarian stir fry) and this wine goes with any number of dishes where you don’t want to lose out on nuance, paired well it never overpowers or distracts from, say, saffron, curry or lime leaves, kalonji, jasmine rice, or the other night on the patio, a green curry with fresh cucumber, pepper and cilantro salad in a rice vinegar dressing.  It will match up against a vegetable pakora as well as a packet of red snapper steamed with green onion.  It’s no heavyweight but no hardship.  So, glass half full: A decent weekday white, screw cap, great price, low alcohol.  Thanks Ann Sperling.

 

Price: $16 at your friendly VQA store (and usually in their fridge to boot).

 

Market Liquidity: You can spend more for less.

July 9, 2012

Majella Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008

Sorry for the cut and paste pic from the www…

A gorgeous gobsmakcing great wallop of fruit on first sip, a vineyard in every whiff as you swirl it in your glass, a little of the oak you expect, a floral whiff (the roses that line the row ends in vineyards?), a nice note of vanilla.  This is a big and brash red with no holds barred.  A purebred varietal though?  I would blind taste with a few friends and ask around the table.  Straight up I would have guessed this as a Cab Sauv – Shiraz blend.  It certainly didn’t have that earthy, leather, hardcore spice of a more “traditional” CS, no one’s going to mistake this high hitter of pretense or a restraint to mimic French airs.  And, our perpetual peeve: A tad high in alcohol, for us, I mean 15 per cent, really?, but potent potables are after all potent (yet somehow the French can pull it off with less alcohol and there dear drinker is an air it would be nice to see mimicked).

 

With food some of that anticipated peppery flavour came forward (tenderloin, BBQd medium rare, easy on the sauce compadre) and the deer-in-the-headlights fruit toned down a bit, a slightly more classic CS tone lingered.  Splitting hairs on now much it is or isn’t what you expect a CS to be seems petty, especially when it was so enjoyable.

 

Is the Majella good?  By god yes, a hundred times over.  Is it worth it?  Well, maybe, but $30 is $30 and we’re not made of mad money.  But if you are, a case of this would do wonders for your social standing.  Invite me over.

 

Price: $29.99 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: Expensive, but think of it this way: A wine this good made in BC would be twice as much.  (I’m talkin’ to you, Black Hills, Le Vieux Pin, etc., etc.)

July 4, 2012

L’Ecole No 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008

Teach a novice wine: Buy a mixed case of L’Ecole and have the student taste every varietal.  The Semillon will taste like Semillon.  The Chenin like Chenin.  And, yes, the Cab Sauv will taste most determinedly like the huge peppery masculine traditional red of red wine lore.  If they can master the varietal differences of a case of LN41 they will know everything requisite to be set free to discover blends, lesser known varietals, oak and non-oaked, sweet, dry and the luscious, exciting and surprising wines that come into your life in the most unexpected of ways.

Is there a fault to this wine?  Take everything into context—it’s terroir, finesse and age and, no, it is flawless.  But here is why the lesson in varietals is important: CS is one of my least favorite.  Just a personal thing.  I prefer wine on the less aggressive side (but I’m fine with a heavyweight Bourbon…).  There is so much other wine I’d go to first other than CS, even LN41’s spectacular Merlot, that, yes, this CS would be lower down my preference list despite how beautiful a red it is, especially with a little air.

But we drank it with a gorgeous, tender,  deeply aromatic marinated flank steak (24 hours in onions, garlic, ginger, olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, sherry, turmeric, oregano, parsley, chilies, then BBQ, then sit, then slice thin) and it was a treat, think Loy and Powell, Astaire and Rogers, truly lovely.

If you need wine superlatives, sigh, let’s see: Starts out with a sharp peppery bite, opens to a deep currant, berry, oak mouthful with a long, smooth and hearty finish.  If wine could have shape and was tactile, this would be solid and with the smoothness of a ripe brie.  But, really, superlatives be damned.  It’s just damned good.

Price: $20-something in WA.  Found the 2006 in Vancouver at Legacy for $55.

Market Liquidity: Classic.  Not stale ersatz classic, Wimbledon classic.