Archive for August, 2013

August 15, 2013

Saturna Wild Ferment Riesling, 2011

016When Saturna Vineyards’ wines first hit the market they were pricey, uneven (Okanagan grapes) and mostly just passable.  Over time, as their vines have matured and more island grapes are making it into the bottle, the house has gone through several (one? two? three label redesigns?) changes.  More importantly the prices have all levelled out more commensurate with quality, but things are still, I’m afraid to say, uneven.  When you visit, and taste the range at the tasting bar, you can see they’ve headed towards strengths (tearing up their Merlot, moving towards more whites), but for whatever reason they’ve never landed a classic.

Until now.

But let’s back up.  The Bistro at the Vineyard is a destination.  Regardless of the wine, and the food (which seems to be as variable and changeable as the labels), the patio, overlooking South Pender, the San Juans and, on a clear day, the Olympic Peninsula, is as divine as anything on offer up in the Okanagan.  In fact, in the right August weather, under an umbrella, it could pass for Provence.  And under those perfect conditions, even mediocre wine flows with passion.  If you boat in, the short walk uphill for food makes it more worthwhile and the short walk back to Saturna beach is an idyllic way to walk off the booze.  We’ve found, generally, their Pinot Gris is the go-to bottle, year after year.  Always passable, never disappointing.  But when summer ends so too ends our Saturna sipping.

That will change this year with a surprising and wonderful Wild Ferment Riesling.  (Compare it at their tasting bar; their standard Family Estate Riesling is no competition.)  The Wild Ferment absolutely catches the island spirit, with lovely citrus notes, a whiff of pineapple and lime, uncommon depth for the vineyard and eminently food friendly—or just get a second bottle and relax under the shade of the gazebo.  At a mere $18 it’s a steal.  And at 12.9% you’ll still be fine to kayak round the island.  Maybe Ann Sperling came down for a consult?  I jest.  A new winemaker joined the vineyard last year and whether it was moxie or a wild stab, relying on indigenous yeast was a payoff.  A little hard to find (unfortunately) and I’ve yet to see print reviews, but if this is the direction the vineyard can move in then Larry Page may finally find his $7 million buyer.

Saturna Vineyards, Saturna Island, BC

Saturna Vineyards, Saturna Island, BC


Price: $18 at the vineyard


Market Liquidity: A breakthrough.  Finally.

August 15, 2013

Poplar Grove Chardonnay, 2011

078Really?  Gismondi really liked this (88 points), citing its “fresh mashed apple nose” and Beppi over at the Globe went a little over the top even referring to its “aromatic verve” and giving it a whopping 91 points.  Although I respect both men and particularly like Crosarial’s descriptive flair, so much less pedantic than the Wine Advocate cronies, and Gismondi seems at times the only one in the province speaking out on our antiquated and unfair liquor regs, I’m not quite sure we drank the same wine.  And we drank two bottles over a few days.

First, it’s a little simple.  Second, it’s a little boring.  Third, it’s a little been there done that on the Chardonnay front.  Fourth, at $22 (and up, $27 at Legacy) it’s got competition that would definitely nudge it down a few points.  Lean, yes, citrus, yes, pale colour, yes, but not so heavy on the tropical fruit (that seems an embellishment).  Beppi spoke of notes of muscat (truthfully? or did you have copy to fill?) and Viognier (yes, maybe even more than a note).  There is that metallic “apple sauce on the canning jar lid” on the tongue along with a pleasing but antiseptic nose. Really, really not a crowd pleaser.  But, obviously, a trade favorite.

Price: $22 at BC Liquor while supplies last.

Market Liquidity: The Lone Ranger or World War Z; it depends on your outlook.

August 15, 2013

Ch Saintayme St-Emilion Grand Cru, 2005

003From the cellar: Unearthed yet another from the famous 05 stash.  It was lovely and a treat but also not thrilling.  Imagine a very, very good bottle of Merlot.  Then imagine paying for it, cellaring it, and opening it up half a decade later.  Expectations will probably run a little high.


Layered, yes, but not mysterious or wondrous.  Smoothed out with air.  A most appealing sipper and OK with dinner, if a touch one-dimensional for a grand-cru.


Price: No record.  Expensive.  When Bordeaux finally makes it to BC it’s rarely a budget item.


Market Liquidity: Lovely but maybe not worth the bother.

August 6, 2013

La Frenz Montage, 2008

089From the cellar: Stuck in the back of the “cellar” and forgotten?  But oh so luscious and what a wonderful keeper this turned out to be.  The Naramata Bench Rattlesnake Vineyard Montage  (a Shiraz, Merlot, Cab Sauv blend with Shiraz bling and Merlot deftness and not too much CS it seemed).  Big and bold with a spicy kick, an aromatic currant nose, with a deep, glorious fruit finish.  A long pleasing pleasant finish with no rough edges.  Honestly, a most wonderful Okanagan red.  But why did I keep it?  Did Gismondi recommend lying down?  No idea, no notes, no meticulous record.  Usually, the Montage is one for fresh from the bottle, now and away.  Maybe it was a mistake?  A glorious mistake.  Opens up with air to a deep cherry vanilla soda with leathery overtones, beautiful nuance of oak but no oaky-whitewash.  And, at only 13% alcohol, a miracle of sorts.


Price: From the vineyard a few years back.  The 2011 sells for $22, so let’s say something like that.


Market Liquidity: Smooth but not glib—like Ella Fitzgerald forgetting the lyrics…

August 6, 2013

Peter Lehmann Layers, 2011

045A quality blend (and we are blend nuts) at a reasonable price (and we are nothing if not budget conscious) but, alas, not a lot more.  Lehmann (now part of the Hess “family”) makes some accessible wines at prices that mean parties can go on longer, and wine can be at table instead of beer.  So kudos I guess.  No disrespect but this isn’t refined or exciting or captivating; it has an enjoyable “social” berry, smoke and woodsy earthiness, few tannins and a non-event finish.  A decent patio BBQ red but not as satisfying as the Hickinbotham.  A surprising 90-pointer from the magazine famous for pointing.


Price: $18.99 at BC Liquor.


Market Liquidity: Smooth but not suave.

August 6, 2013

Mt Monster Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010

019Petrol, pepper, eucalyptus, cedar and dark cherry.  Be careful; it’s one of those Jekyll and Hyde reds, with a lot of Incredible Hulk heft (14.5%) alcohol, but easy to sip with virtually no burn.  Compared to many of the California Cab Sauvs at this price point, the Monster is an exceptional value with none of the rough edges you’d expect.  But at the same time it’s not quite as refined as Cab Sauv sometimes needs to be.  BBQ on the deck?  Yes.  Gordon Ramsey’ Beef Wellington?  No.  Still, with one summer movie blockbuster after another, sooner or later you need a credible quaff.


Price: $23.77 with the case discount at Everything Wine.


Market Liquidity: Strong and reliable but not heroic.

August 1, 2013

Tantalus Riesling, 2012

056Sharply acidic and predominantly lemon with a nuanced candy floss teaser on the finish.  A most pleasant Okanagan Riesling and a lovely expression of the breadth of this varietal.  Yet more proof that “gentle” whites excel where the vineyards are awash in hefty reds.  In the heat of summer, with a salade nicoise or fish or light fare this is a perfect pairing.  There is a reserve at $10 more, even harder to source.


Oh, and great label.


Price: $27.99 at Legacy, $24.90 at Marquis, $23 at the vineyard.


Market Liquidity: Hard to find but worth finding.

August 1, 2013

M Chapoutier “Beaurevoir” Tavel Rosé, 2012

photo 1Summer.  Fresh fruit, new vegetables, BBQ.  Flowers in bloom.  It feels so good and you’re in such a good mood that every year (every year) when the sales clerk sells you on a sensational bottle of rosé you take the bait.  And every year it’s the same old same old; whites and reds are better.  I’ve had rosé on five continents and all I can say is, “Myeh…”

This wine does not reserve a review but, in all fairness, $30 is a princely sum for mediocrity.

photo 5 photo 2a

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Price: $29.99 at Everything Wine and, actually, more expensive at other private stores.

Market Liquidity: Like a zillion summer movies; here one week, gone the next.

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Luscious summer pudding: Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, compressed 48 hours in angel food cake.