Archive for April, 2016

April 29, 2016

La Frenz Montage, 2013

A fruity, juicy, cherry cola mouthful.  Light and refreshing as any white might be.  A touch too acid, which lingers, not in a good way.

La Frenz Montage 2013

While we swooned over the 2008, and thought the 2011 OK, the 2013 is not the finest moment for La Frenz / Montage.  Given the price point, there are much better options.


Aside from these reservations, I do like the wine’s ethereal nature and its blast of Starburst like generic berry.  (Think a palatable Lambrusco without the effervescence.  Or, if you’re old enough, Punchy, the original Hawaiian Punch mascot.)


Price: $30 plus taxes at Kitsilano Wine Cellar, so not an everyday red. Even though it drinks like a Tuesday night sipper.


Market Liquidity: Doesn’t pack a punch, but it tastes like one.


                                      The original Hawaiian Punch “Punchy”

April 22, 2016

Le Vieux Pin Vaïla Rosé, 2015

Le Vieux Pin Vaila 2015

In a culture seemingly obsessed with serving rosé, I can’t seem to glom on or endorse the fad.  I try though.  Isn’t it really just an excuse to serve young wine and fill up the vineyard’s coffers?  I’m old enough to remember White Zinfandel as, wait for it, a house wine.  In fact, I’m old enough to remember brunch at the old O’Doul’s on Robson St. with palm fronds drooping over your table’s butter dish and ladies in pant suits sipping wine spritzers mid-morning.  But as these things go, you could do much worse (pay more and enjoy less) than this wonderful refreshing not-overly-alcoholic-but-too-much-alcohol-for-lunch Pinot Noir sipper.


It has a delirious refreshing quality but never accomplished much (on the nose or the palate).  The price, in the mid-20s, sits very well for a light summer aperitif.  In short, mixed feelings.  Buy one for the table and stick with Blue Mountain in the fridge.  (The reserve Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay came out this week at BM.  Better buys all round in my books.)


Price: Just under thirty with taxes at Swirl Yaletown (not available, as of this review, at the vineyard, funnily enough).


Market Liquidity: If rosé is your wont, you won’t be disappointed.

Robson St in the late 1970s, at the end of its heyday, when you could still get groceries, a magazine and even drop your shoes off at a cobbler.

Robson St in the late 1970s, at the end of its heyday, when you could still get groceries, a magazine and even drop your shoes off at a cobbler.


April 19, 2016

Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc, 2014




If you’ve been to the Cape Region in South Africa (I have), if you’ve made an attempt to visit as many wineries as possible (I did), if you’ve sampled as wide a variety of wines as you could find on offer (most definitely), if you stopped by a wine shop to pick up a bottle to take to dinner—common, even at high end restaurants, without a steep corkage fee—and been surprised at the breadth of varietals on offer and the low price (surprised, then depressed, then not surprised), and then come back to BC raring to give South Africa its due only to be put off by the schlock and blah of what BC Liquor carries (surprised, then depressed, then not surprised), you should, at the very least, give the Bellingham CB a go.

Bellingham Old Vine Chenin Blanc, 2014

It’s under $30, it’s very good, it has great depth and nuance, is a decent sipper but a very friendly food wine with fresh West Coast cuisine, and can’t be matched by anything local.  It is, however, Chenin Blanc, the varietal that gets very little love.  Too bad.  If you’d like something approaching Vouvray, but at a South African price point, give it a whirl.  A golden hue in the glass, sweet but not cloying, and not top heavy in acidity like some [nameless] BC CBs.


Price: $24 plus taxes at BCL.


Market Liquidity: It will grow on you.

April 14, 2016

Nichol Pinot Gris, 2014 & Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc, 2013

For the past few weeks we’ve been drinking wine we like, rather than new bottles, hence the lack of reviews.


Bubbles at lunch

Look at this, bubbles at lunch…


For a special occasion last weekend we popped some bubbles including Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, a “base model” in BC which is dry and appealing with a butterscotch note at the end that, although pales to say, a Perrier-Jouët, is nevertheless delectable.  It used to be easy to find, under $60, at BC Liquor, but has for whatever reason disappeared.  It was for a while my go-to special occasion champers.


We bought a bottle of an Italian red, the Verso Rosso Salenta, which was our favorite value red a while back, review here.  What a bomb.  Thank god I wasn’t corking it for guests.  Hugely disappointing; it had that prune juice funk that leads one to believe it had been stored in a too hot container or left to sit on a loading bay long before it ever got unloaded into a temperature controlled environment.  VRS, yah burnt.


Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches on homemade bread

Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches on homemade bread


We finished up some of our case lots from Blue Mountain.  Last March I gave, well, a rather savage review of their “regular” Chardonnay.  See my disappointment and roundabout way of calling it crap, here.  Wait a minute: A year in the “cellar” had transformed this forgettable plonk completely; peach and lemon notes on the palate, opening to reveal an intriguing filbert/maraschino pop that left us no option but to drink it pronto.  So, note to self: Order by the case, sock it away for a rainy day.


Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc, 2013


It’s been a few years since we drank Nautilus.  It was gifted on a weekend lately and, for better or worse, we opened it with some foodie BLTs on home-made bread.  It was a killer.  If you think of the “severity” of SB on a ten point scale, with a lot of Sancerre hovering under 3.5, and most NZ SB, like, say Brancott, at an 8.5 or higher, the Nautilus hovers around 7; it has some restraint that’s often missing down under.  Bracing but very food friendly.


Price: $28.50 before taxes at Everything Wine.


Market Liquidity: You pay for the refinement.


Halibut in parchment

Halibut & spring vegetables in parchment packets


On an evening of spectacular fresh halibut steamed with baby vegetables in parchment, we opened a Nichol Pinot Gris.  (This is not the more expensive, harder to source, “two barrels” PG.  But, that said, let’s go apples and apples and hold it up to, say, the eloquent and much loved Blue Mountain base model, to which iy doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance against.)  Anyone surfing the blog will know we like our PG, particularly the variety of West Coast PG.  The colour of  PG in BC, covers a wide swath on the Pantone scale.  As for Pinot Gris and its myriad hues, I’ll leave that to another blogger, with an interesting take, and a reference to a vintner making seven different types of PG (!) in almost as many colours: Link here.



While we’ve “oohed” and “ahhed” about many Nichols in the past—witness us fawning over the Cab Franc here and praising the value of the Nine Mile Red here, (but finding no love for a Gewurtz here,)—this was a tad rough; even if drinking PG is nothing more than the amusement of having a pink hue in your glass, you’re better off with Kettle Valley.  Still, it drank well with fish.

Nichol Pinot Gris, 2014

Price: $22 or thereabouts.


Market Liquidity: Competition in the marketplace shames this everyday white.



April 5, 2016

Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo, 2013

The last in our brief foray into high pointers from the Wine Spectator et. al.  I should be criminally charged for opening this in early 2016.  And James Suckling should be shot for recommending this as a 2016 bottle.  And the 95 points on the label is a misnomer; it was an Italian wine competition…  At any rate, a wine with this much heft should be sold (so young) with a chastity belt around the cork.  It is simply not ready for the glass; lord knows how the reviewers can “predict” but they do.

Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo, 2013

A rather simple berry (cherry, cranberry) slips across the tongue, deceivingly smooth, and not much else.  You’re dismissive.  Then it hits you, big time.  The finish on this is Nadal Djokovic Australian Open long.  Deeply nuanced.  With air it opens beautifully, a low smoky evocative red like a Billie Holiday ballad. But still, you can tell, you can feel that this is not the wine it could be, should be, in another three years.


If you got it in the US, for, what? $23?, then, OK, try a bottle know, to compare down the road.  But if you’re shelling out over $40, as you will in BC, then this is a cellar companion.  Buy two.


Price: Under $40 before taxes, over $40 with. Ouch.


Market Liquidity: A prodigal now, it will return home given time.


April 3, 2016

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

Very good.  There is really nothing to nitpick about; smooth and supple, cedar and sharp maraschino on the palate, a light note of licorice, quite delectable.  Heartily food friendly.  The 14.5 per cent alcohol dissipates with a lightness you wouldn’t anticipate in Cab Sauv (but will haunt your head the next morning).  Honestly, quite good. Is it interesting, provocative or distinguished?  Not so much.  Like that gorgeous actress in that exquisite dress with Harry Winston jewels on loan, captivating on the red carpet, but forgettable in that movie.  What was that movie she was in?

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

Price: $34.99 at BCL (before the onerous taxes).  Pass.


Market Liquidity:  Like one night in a luxurious hotel room.

April 2, 2016

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay, 2013

For Christmas I was gifted with wine related subscriptions; Wine Spectator, Decanter, that sort of thing.  Exceedingly generous, fun to browse.  But, alas, there is a flip side.  The WS, e.g., is a bit of a tease; lauding wines largely not available in BC, labeling some wines as good value, which could only be brought into Canada by paying taxes and levies to make them, effectively, the tip of a Ponzi scheme.  You could never hire the WS to be a consultant on cellar development in BC.  What would they recommend?  Lindeman’s and Cono Sur?  So while the writing can be tantalizing, and exciting, and encourage you to face new varietals and vintages, it’s also distressingly complex to find the wines.

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay, 2013

There are a few, here and there, you can source.  Witness this Rodney Strong (and a couple of others we’ll try this week), a so-so with the WS, a 90 pointer over at Parker.  With an objective view it’s quite palatable: The lemon/grapefruit acid balances well with the standard California root beer float cream oak.  It seems more refined than cheaper cousins, although a glimmer against Grgich or Ridge.  Still, at the price point, quite OK.  Here’s the rub: This will be $60 in a restaurant.  And that is criminal.  Because it’s good, not great, outstanding or brilliant.


Price: $24.50 at BCL (just over $28 with taxes).


Market Liquidity: Typical, in a good way.

April 1, 2016

Church & State Lost Inhibitions Red, 2014

Darren V recommended the Church & State Trebello.  That wasn’t easy to source.  When I did come across the white I asked the clerk (at an independent store, a vanishing breed) if they stocked the red.  She told me that the Trebello had been re-branded as part of the C&S Lost Inhibitions line.  All of them have provocative and, if not catchy, then Love Hearts cum Magic 8 Ball trite slogans.  She showed me the new bottle.  Writ large was Bitch Please.  That was a huge letdown.  I said “This is a cross between focus groups gone awry and an MBA who knows nothing about wine but everything about potential market share.  I’ll pass.”  Then, without missing a beat, the clerk said “Would it help, do you think, if you decanted it first?”  Well if only the BC Liquor staff had a sense of humour like that.  Of course I bought a bottle.

Church and State Lost Inhibitions Red 2014

At first it is forgettable.  In fact, we set our glasses aside and got on with dinner.  Then at dinner (spicy pork, vegetables) the wine came alive.  It wasn’t complex, it wasn’t wowie zowie, but gosh did it work with dinner.  The blend isn’t that even but neither is it lopsided.  Label aside, I think an honest restaurateur could offer this under $40 and sell it like hotcakes.  With some air, after eating, it offered up lovely floral notes and drank like a more expensive red.  And get this: We finished the bottle before dessert.


Price: Just over $20 at an indie store.


Market Liquidity: A pleasant surprise.