Archive for August, 2014

August 19, 2014

Ridge East Bench Zinfandel, 2012

171Screw methadone. We have found our drug of choice. It’s not on Schedule I. It’s not on Schedule II. But it damn well could be. We haven’t found a wine this interesting, luxurious or addictive since the Woodward Canyon a year or so ago.

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Although I haven’t tried the BulletProof diet, where strong coffee and butter are blended for a morning beverage, this Zin from Ridge has a buttery palate that is creamy, rich, and ridiculously likable: It might as well be butter blended into wine. Huge, piercing fruit notes that are astonishingly smooth and velvety. An absolute stunning tribute to what a Zin can be—and line it up next to the myriad metallic bombs that line the government store shelves for some real competitive taste testing. There isn’t a CA red in the BC Liquor Control Board stock that could draw a straw against this. Plus, it’s not an overpowering 16 per cent alcohol.

 

You can find raves on any old Google search. I like the words pure, opulent and transparent which I’ve seen elsewhere. But Goggle will help you find more “winey” descriptions if you don’t trust the fireworks reference. Suffice to say this is a knock-your-socks off good red, a mouth watering sipper, a superb meat accompaniment, and a shocking under $30 at the vineyard. If we could, I’d nominate it for a Tony, an Emmy, a Grammy and an Oscar. But we can’t. All we can do is bring it back into Canada, one bottle at a time, as our duty free allotment, and bemoan the high tax crapshoot that is the BC wine landscape.

 

You cannot live by bread alone.  Even really good home-made bread.

You cannot live by bread alone. Even really good home-made bread.

Price: $28 at the vineyard, and similar in the Pacific NW.  Here in BC, if you can find it, over $50.

 

Market Liquidity: EGOT: Ridge hits another home-run.

August 19, 2014

Domaine Lafage Tesselae Old Vine Carignan, 2012

058This is the sort of red that Robert Parker loves. Let him love it. It’s pure, 100 per cent Carignan, which in BC makes it something of a rarity and a talking point. But the 15 per cent alcohol, the heady fruit notes, the nearly fortified wine-ness of it all, we found it tedious and predictable. And with just nothing unique or wonderful or striking to boot, despite expectations. A case for general consumption at a BBQ would be lauded.  Sipping over a medium rare ribeye, not so much.  I believe Parker referred to it as a “sexy, voluptuous beauty.” Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Price: A nicely comfortable $13 USD. You can’t beat that for value. On value alone I agree with Parker: 92 points. Hell, 100 points on value.

 

Market Liquidity: Ready to wear but not bespoke.

August 19, 2014

La Frenz Ensemble, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, 2011

056A very accomplished blend. A thoughtful blend. Not too Sem, not to Sauv Bl. We get at least one mixed case a year from La Frenz: Their wines are reasonably priced and good quality. But we rarely drink them thinking about them. With each sip, this wine was a Cartesian brain teaser: How much Sauv Bl, how much Sem, how did they achieve that note, is that sweet or tart or stony or lush or all of the above? A lot to think about. Think Thomas Pynchon-ish.

 

Cobb Salad.  Really, really good Cobb Salad.  Ah, summer.

Cobb Salad. Really, really good Cobb Salad. Ah, summer.

In short, we liked it a lot but didn’t love it. Ultimately it sort of exhausted us considering about the blend as opposed to just enjoying it. And it was a tad pricey. But I recommend it. It should be required reading, er, drinking for the local cognoscenti. Try to find it though…

 

Price: $29 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar (the site perpetually under construction).

 

Market Liquidity: All things considered.

August 5, 2014

Hickinbotham Shiraz Cabernet, 2009, RIP

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Rest in Peace. Gone but not forgotten.

 

From the cellar: One of our long time favorites. Expertise in the blend, immediately approachable, in that magic under$20 range, and never failed to wow at home or away. Sure, it wasn’t Ridge or Woodward Canyon, but on a weeknight, as an impromptu host gift, as a party favorite, it fit the bill and then some. Not now: In all its corporate wisdom, BC Liquor has made the decision to discontinue this versatile and much-loved bottle. Over-stocked in “Bottled in BC” dross, but no room for the simpler (and finer) things in life. So it goes at our provincial corporate enterprise.

 

One of our very first reviews was the Hickenbotham. Our sentimental ruminations kept the blog alive! I found this last, lonely bottle lying down in the cellar. Like a long lost friend.

 

Price: $19.99, once upon a time.

 

Market Liquidity: Memories.

August 5, 2014

Chateaux Rousselle, 2009

Well, it ain’t Haut-Guiraud but it’s a decent if over-expressive Côtes de Bourg. If this was a person I would ask them to take off that loud Versace embroidered chain mail jacket and let me see the subtle well-tailored shirt underneath. You want this wine to be the wine it could be but your judgement is clouded by whack-a-mole headiness.

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The 14.5% alcohol is markedly Californian. All shock and awe. The blast of flavour on the tongue dissipates to rounder, deeper, leather and berry flavours that are positively captivating. But to get there you have to wade through this cloak of alcohol and tannins. Amazing that the 2009 still has so far to go but it does.

 

Nothing “wrong” with this able red, it stood up to ribs well, but nothing to write home about either.

 

Price: Gifted, a very nice gift, but we would pass on the nearly $30 for another bottle.

 

Market Liquidity: What’s the old WASP adage? Put on all your jewelry. Then take one piece off.

August 5, 2014

Haywire Canyon View Pinot Noir, 2011

What Haywire puts out on a gray label tends to be better than their white. In my experience, the gray is drinkable. ‘Nuff said.

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The 2012 PN has something of a reputation and sold out with some rapidity. The 2011, although hard to find, can still be found with some effort. I’m not going to recommend the effort. Smooth and easy to drink but without any dimension. On the palate lightly floral, violets and maybe lavender, a peppery kick, some licorice, but virtually no finish and hugely disappointing with even the mildest of cheese and light cured meats. Frankly, I am surprised at the “points” this one garnered.

 

On the plus side, their site in the Okanagan is modern and enticing; check it out if you’re in Summerland. They are a sincere venture, although the sincerity on their label is sort of like saying “look how hard we worked” yet no one has ever bought a lump of coal and thanked the miners for their hard work… Still, their Pinot Gris, reviewed here, was smashing.

 

Price: $35. Ouch.

 

Market Liquidity: To each his own.

August 5, 2014

Blue Mountain Chardonnay, 2012

A fine and exemplary example of Okanagan Chardonnay. Reasonably priced. Not brilliant, not bad.

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Sorry for the group shot. The BM Chardonnay is second left. The Sandhill, also in the back.

 

And here’s where I don’t review the Sandhill Small Lots Chardonnay, a steely expression of the varietal that is uncompromising and almost hostile in its forward-ness. But by golly is it expensive. The small lots program we love, in general. Here are some past reviews Sandhill Barbera, Cabernet Syrah, Small Lots One. But the SL program is indicative of two things in BC: A producer comes up with a good wine and jacks up the price. And, second, what is becoming my motto:

 

BC Wines Are Overpriced. Period.

 

Small lots wines that were once $30 are now $40. I guess the sky is the limit. Down south, it seems CA wineries can charm your pants off under $30. Ridge has a raft of wines under $30, none of which any BC wine under $30 could hold a candle to.

 

Thanks God for Blue Mountain. Even their “expensive” Pinot Noir is heads and tails better than so many pricier rivals. And their approachable Chardonnay, with all the nuances of a fine California Chard, is neither overpowering nor inhospitable. Light oak, a dry walnut nuttiness, layers of citrus with a buttery, long and satisfying finish. Sure, it’s not Grgich Hills, but you know what? Blue Mountain seems to know what it’s all about; it’s like most BC vintners are adolescents, in irritating transition, and Blue has just figured out how to pull their act together.

 

Sorry for the editorial. As usual, you don’t need to read the reviews at all in fact; the Liquidity blurb that graces each post at bottom is in essence the review in a headline.

 

Price: $26 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: No whoa or wow, just mmm mmm good.

August 5, 2014

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling, 2011

006Bone dry. Stunningly layered, crisp to the point of crackle, acid to the point of piquant, lusciously long finish. Really delectable and not typically Riesling by any stretch. Again, a wonderful bottle from Tantalus. Their approachable entry level (somewhat hard to find) Riesling has, I might add, a more flexible character, whether for sipping or alongside meals, but this stellar concoction deserves all the praise it has garnered. Except for this: It’s $35. That’s a lot of coin. I have to look at what $35 gets you nowadays and I gotta say it seems every time a BC wine wins accolades the price gets jacked. Look at Sandhill. And on price, on price alone, I’m consigning this to my veto list. But for the Vancouverites in west side gazillion dollar fixer uppers and on the 14 month waiting period for a Range Rover, this is definitely one for the cellar. Or for now. Get a case.

 

Price: Aforementioned.  At some VQA stores.

 

Market Liquidity: Liquid gold at a hefty price.