Archive for June, 2015

June 30, 2015

BC Wine Studio Siren’s Call Syrah, 2012

There is a Cookie Monster bit from decades ago where he learns how to make cookies from scratch. With all the ingredients set before him he devours all the flour in one go. Then he eats all the sugar. Then the butter. Etc. He doesn’t understand that the components which make up the cookies he loves are just constituent pieces, and that it’s the ability, even artistry, to combine, in balance, that counts. In essence, the Siren’s Call is a bit like the component pieces of a brilliant red, but they are just the pieces, not the final product.


Glass half full, it’s hard to believe the OK turned out what is a very good facsimile of a South Australian Shiraz; it has the kick and vigor and burnt sun texture of something from Barossa. And to come from a relative newbie shows that perseverance furthers; if I was down the valley at the more established houses I’d be rethinking my market.


Glass half empty, it’s chalky, stiff, rough around the edges with moments of genius and an unevenness on the palate that is disconcerting. It hits with vanilla, then chokes. It rises with smoky dark fruits, then tanks. It’s like the Bizarro at Six Flags; up and down, up and down.


We liked it. All of the heady overwrought perfume and overbearing tannins. We can see why it would win favour in the Lieutenant Governor’s 2015 wine competition. We just didn’t like it enough to drop $26 on another bottle when, yes, the Australians have refined their brash reds to a much more, um, refined degree.


Four stars to the label design.


Price: $26 at Mud Bay


Market Liquidity: Unfinished business.

June 30, 2015

Clos du Soleil Fumé Blanc, 2014

Another winner from CdS. Pitch perfect Sem-Sauv Bl blend. Attractive, intriguing, hugely refreshing. Witness the empty bottle: This was certainly not re-corked and retired to the fridge.


Stony, steely minerals soften to a most appealing tangy fruit, think loganberries or gooseberries or currants. I did not get the strong hit of tropical fruit but there is a tart citrus pith on the palate. More SB than Sem but up against much of the Oz regulars at BC Liquor this wins hands down.


I will buy it over and over again given the price point. But who likes Fumé Blanc? The average plonker would prefer non-descript Pinot Grigio probably shipped over to Italy in a tanker. That’s the crime.


Price: $20 at Mud Bay. Thanks for having it in stock Mud Bay.


Market Liquidity: Good to the last drop.

June 22, 2015

Lake Breeze Vineyards Merlot, 2012

The varietal was one of the BC Lieutenant Governor’s 2015 winners: Over 400 wines from over 100 wineries and 14 winners. And this was one of them. Really?

Lake Breeze Vineyards Merlot, 2012

The LB opens up nicely, it’s a drinkable common place red, with fruity flavours reminiscent of “mixed berry jam” and a lingering finish that (thank goodness) tastes better than the bouquet. It has no wow factor and seems, at best, a bronze amongst golds and silvers—and even that’s being generous.


Good on Lake Breeze for taking home a prize. But when it comes to Merlot, we have to say Washington wins hands down. A couple of samples along the way include the astounding Walter Clore and the more than enviable Basel Cellars. This doesn’t hold a candle to either—yet both were grown just down the road, in the “other” Okanagan and neither got much recognition. (Or should I write Okonogon?)


Price: $20 or thereabouts from Mud Bay.


Market Liquidity: It will please those who are easily pleased.

June 22, 2015

Chateau Clement Saint-Jean Cru Bourgeois Medoc, 2012

Chateau Clement Saint-Jean Cru Bourgeois Medoc, 2012

In a glowing review, one pro referred to this as Margaux-like. On my budget that’s about as good as it gets. However, despite the inviting ruby colour and evocative notes of berries it had (for me) a tad too much acidity; I couldn’t get as excited over this as some of the online hoopla led me to expect. It was very, very drinkable. But heck, it was a far cry from Margaux. It also needs another year or two lying down.

A little bit of everything you’d expect in a decent Medoc but nothing you’d expect in a great Medoc.

Price: $14 USD.

Market Liquidity: Half-mast.

June 18, 2015

Cassini Red Carpet Pinot Noir, 2013

Cassini Red Carpet Pinot Noir, 2013

A very hard to find OK red (not uncommon; almost every decent BC OK wine is “hard to find” and anything of repute tends to sell out quickly). We did not find it typically Pinot; it has none of the lightness and grace of a Burgundy. But it is a gorgeous red sipper. The winery describes it as black currant, vanilla and toffee. I would say menthol, licorice, star anise, medium tannins with a long finish (which, frankly, doesn’t linger in a refined way). Easy to drink.


If you can find this and if you can pay the winery rate of $20 or something relatively close, I would say only one thing: Buy. Buy lots.


Price: $22 at Mud Bay Wines, an absolutely wonderful BC wine shop tucked away is Tsawwassen.


Market Liquidity: In the hit and miss of BC’s Okanagan, this is a hit.

June 18, 2015

Domaine Graveirette Mus C Vaucluse, 2012

This wine spoke to me.  Truly.  It was like a calling.  Like when the curtain rises in opera and you gasp at the scene.  Think ride of the Valkyries.  Astonishingly masculine, it absolutely epitomized terroir, was monstrously strong without being oppressive.  There are dominant notes of cigar leaf and woodsy aromas, earthy, modestly tannic, and with layers of nuance that linger and linger.  It is not your everyday red.  It is not masquerading as Ch Neuf du Pape.  I personally don’t know whether I’ve ever had Marsalan before, but this was a stunning discovery.  It has the heft of Cab Sauv and the intrigue of Grenache and the delectability of something lighter, maybe cru Beaujolais.  If this is off the radar, if this is what 89 points is all about with the wine crowd, bring it on.

Domaine Graveirette Mus C  Vaucluse, 2012

Price: $11.70 USD.  Seriously.


Market Liquidity: How sweet it is.  How effing sweet it is.

June 17, 2015

Weingut Walter Buchegger Reserve Leopold Gruner Vetliner, 2013

With a summery spring upon is, it’s a season of simpler dinners and lighter wines.  We cleaned out the fridge for an Elaine Benes Big Salad and served it alongside a light Austrian white.


Weingut Walter Buchegger Reserve Leopold Gruner Vetliner, 2013

This GV didn’t wow us as much as the Riesling, but the crisp, light, ethereal-ness of this delectable white disappeared faster than I could take notes.  I am, and this is absolutely serious, I am planning a trip to Vienna next year based solely on how good these few bottles from Buchegger have been.


Price: Something in USD.  $22?


Market Liquidity: If only I could find a bed this comfortable.

June 1, 2015

New York Times Stinging Critique of Robert Parker’s Wine Dominance

Welcome.  I am “An Extreme and Useless Movement.”  And proud of it.


89 Points and loving it

89 Points and loving it

“If ripe wines are considered good, many California producers reasoned, those made from grapes brought to the brink of desiccation, to the peak of ripeness (or even a bit beyond), should taste even better. That logical leap has created a new American vernacular for wine, a dense, opaque fruitiness well suited to a nation of Pepsi drinkers.”


That is one of my favorite quotes from a rather explosive piece in the Sunday New York Times Magazine yesterday. If you missed it, here is a link, but here are some other great quotes:


“Are the best wines the equivalent of Hollywood blockbusters or art-house films? And who gets to decide?”


“Ten wines, deemed perfect or near-perfect by Wine Advocate reviewers and validated by Parker’s palate, were poured for some 500 attendees in a room with the majesty of a Gothic cathedral. Despite the absence of food of any kind, not even the crackers or bread often served at such functions to neutralize the flavor of one wine before another is sampled, those attending paid the equivalent of $700 to taste them.”


The article went on at length to talk about diversity in wine growing techniques, that “marginal” group that likes wine with food (as opposed to a dais) and the idea that there is more than one wine palate in the world.


And here they quote Parker’s rebuttal, which is sad, desperate, defensive and a little pathetic:


“After 35 years I had thought there was no longer room for revisionist history, outright distortion, deception and clever scams… The jihadist movements of non-sulphured wines, green, under-ripe wines, low alcohol, insipid stuff promoted by the anti-pleasure police and neo-anti-alcohol proponents has run its course as another extreme and useless movement few care about.”


This blog isn’t deliberately political nor is it ever meant to be didactic. We don’t hate Parker, he’s rather brilliant, what we hate is the point system and how the point system has nothing to do with how millions of people enjoy wine, to say nothing of how the point system is more about points than wine, and how Parker steadfastly refuses to understand that concept. Those concepts.  We enjoy wine with food and the 89 points of one bottle may be ten times better than the 90 points he accords to another. Plus, as Hugh Johnson has noted, what sort of cretin creates a point system that begins at 84 and ends (most of the time) at 94? Alternatively, we don’t love the new wine zealots; they look in some way just like an alternative Parker. But we do love much of their message, particularly the abandonment of sameness, of the over-bearing predominance of high alcohol and of virtually all high pointers fitting a pre-determined expectation. But most of all, we LOVE being labelled as just another extreme and useless movement.–not reserved yet. Get in while the going is good.