Archive for July, 2016

July 28, 2016

Lopez de Haro Rioja Blanco, 2014

Lopez de Haro Rioja Blanco, 2014

This is a something you rarely find: An inexpensive wine (under $20 before tax!), with enough character and depth to hold your interest that, yes, you’ll go back and buy it again.  That you want to buy again.  This is not a knock-your-socks off powerhouse Rioja, but a patio wine par excellence.  The muted fruit sits on an uber-creamy palate that at times feels as rich as an Alsatian Gewurtz, and at other times a little pasty in the way almond skins stick on the palate.  Banana skin, almond and orange blossom, that pretty much sums it up, it ain’t no Burgundy.  But it’s candy cotton light, low alcohol, easy to drink, and versatile.  It will also please the guests that turn their nose up at Chardonnay and/or Sauv Blanc and/or Pino Grigio.  In my mind, a superb everyday sipper.


Price: $20 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.


Market Liquidity: Easy on the pocketbook, easier on the palate.

July 27, 2016

Cassini Quattro, 2012

If this is your thing, then this is your thing.  By which I mean, why pay $20 more for a California Cab Sauv with 90 plus points when you can have a gorgeous, rustic, hugely satisfying BC blend?

Cassini Quattro, 2012

The “attack” is strong with a yin yang of violets and cigar box.  I liked that juxtaposition a lot, but no one will mistake it for finesse.  On the palate it’s full, aggressive, while the finish is mild and doesn’t linger.  Really delectable if a tad less accomplished than the Cassini Cabernet Franc which we drank last week.  But from my perspective, this is a stellar red at the price point.  The imperfection of it, if you will, was perhaps the most likeable and enduring element.  We’ll be back for more.


Price: $30 well spent at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.


Market Liquidity: Bob Fosse said “Thank God I wasn’t born perfect.”  They should stamp that on a sticker, and remove the plaudits.

July 27, 2016

Burrowing Owl Sauvignon Blanc, 2015

Burrowing Owl Sauvignon Blanc, 2015

The acidity will stop you in your tracks.  The strident Kiwi SB grassiness is nowhere to be seen, instead we have a doff of the hat to the purity of the French style, an austere, highly charged blast of melon and citrus.  The assertiveness is either enchanting and captivating or off-putting.  Are you looking for Sancerre or Cloudy Bay? (I am looking for Cape Mentelle, but BCL “wisely” decided to delist those fine wines from Western A.  Oh, sorry for the barb, the digression…)  Regardless, this is less than subtle but also a tad sanitized.  Ever order a beer or glass of wine in a restaurant and the first thing to hit your nose is the light aroma of bleach?  That to me was the first sip of this wine.  A big (big, big) fan of Burrowing O, I could nevertheless pass on this without regret.


Price: $27 plus taxes at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.


Market Liquidity: What’s the old pop song?  “Sometimes you’re gonna hit the mark, sometimes you’re gonna take the next best thing.”

July 26, 2016

TintoNegro Limestone Block Malbec, 2012

TintoNegro Limestone Block Malbec, 2012

92 points.  Seriously?  Someone is losing their marbles.


Price: $32.50 at Everything Wine.


Market Liquidity: An easy to drink red.

July 25, 2016

C C Jentsch Cellars Syrah, 2013

Super spicy—in a good way. A funky woodiness reminiscent of Oz Shiraz.  There is an unusual Pinot Noir lightness on the palate (and the glass, it’s so pale it’s nearly anemic), but it holds its weight on the finish.  Despite the balance and approachability, despite all the lovely tangents on the nose and mouth, this wine never grew on us, as a sipper, or with dinner.  Ephemeral.  When all was said and done we felt it wasn’t, dollar-wise, better than many cheaper options at BCL, but neither was it as striking or memorable as we’d been led to believe.

C C Jentsch Cellars Syrah, 2013

By that I mean we bought it as the Jentsch rated tops in a list of 15 Syrahs, many from BC which were judged alongside “global benchmarks” (their term, not mine); although judging a dozen wines or so seems hardly representative, more of the sort of party game you’d see this blogger create, “judges” who produce a “list” gives credence to the “sticker” which boosts sales (which also translates as hard to find in a store; a Jentsch blog with the top Syrah and Chardonnays is here.).  In the “judged” list Nichol is my favorite of the lot but overall, despite the quality of these wines, you pay through the nose, relative to Australia and South America.  (As an aside, the Hamilton Russell scored quite high in their Chardonnay list; although a different vintage, we are huge fans too.)  OK, rather than quibble with the list per se, and noting that no one will turn up their nose at a guest bringing over a bottle of Langmeil, but as a previous client of Garagiste in Seattle, I can tell you point blank that nothing in the Okanagan, nothing, at whatever price point, can compete with the very best from Walla Walla.  Which leads me to believe the judges missed some fine West Coast wines, despite the global benchmark.


Price: $35 plus at Everything Wine.


Market Liquidity: All I could hear was Mr. Burns saying “I like the cut of his jib.”  Which is, yes, a dig at the experts.

July 23, 2016

La Frenz Riesling, 2014

La Frenz Riesling

A mere 11 per cent alcohol.  Fruity, a smidgen sweet, an addictive acidity, and light as a feather.  Crisp and not cloying.  Forget rosé; this is a lunch wine par excellence.  We ate it with Jacques Pepin’s fresh corn souffles, but in fact it would pair with any civilized summer lunch that doesn’t require pomp or proclamation.  Not, technically, the drier, heartier Rieslings we gravitate to, but at the price point a most accomplished accomplishment.


Price: $20 at the vineyard.


Market Liquidity: A proverbial delicate flower.

July 22, 2016

Abel’s Tempest Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling, 2011

Wow.  This isn’t Prosecco.  This so isn’t Prosecco.  And what a relief, from the generic fizz that permeates every social event year round.  Neither it is the Jansz, the just OK Jansz, readily available in BC.  This is really stupendous, so much depth, there’s plenty of berry fruit but it’s dry, not heavy, there is a finish that goes on for antiquity, and by god is it easy to drink.  The price point is high, but frankly it’s better value than the $15 more for the cheapest Champagne and more than twice as good as many “premium” sparklers $10 less.  I’m not going to belabor how much we liked this and how fast it disappeared or even tell you where we found it because it’s hard to find, but you just have to try it.  It’s a stunner.

Abel’s Tempest Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling, 2011

Price: A rather steep $35 before taxes at a YVR independent.


Market Liquidity: I believe it was Byron who wrote “Man, being reasonable, must get drunk.”

July 20, 2016

Natalino Del Prete “Nataly” Primitivo, 2012

Drinking this wine is like a find at Winners.  The 86 karat Spoonmaker’s Diamond in the Topkapi Palace was, the tale goes, found by a fisherman, traded to a jeweler as “a worthless piece of glass” for three spoons.  This could be Puglia’s three spoons red.  And organic to boot. No pun intended.

Natalino Del Prete Nataly Primitivo

Ever see that dog at the park that’s well behaved and cute as a button and a mish mash of breeds that no one can quite make out?  That’s this wine, the wine that could never win awards, that would never suit Robert Parker’s 92 point oaky palate, that is magnificent in its uniqueness but bears no resemblance to the finest France has on offer.  It is raw, earthy, loamy, fruit and acid and berry and flower and a touch of Rooibos.  It was, truthfully, not that wonderful a sipper, a little too uneven, striking in its pungency.  But here’s the kicker: It was stunningly food friendly.  Superlative with food.  We had zucchini parmesan (hey, there’s so much zucchini at the farmer’s markets right now, what else can you do with the stuff?) and it was a colossal success, it stood up to tomatoes and parmesan a dream.  It was steadfast in its strength of character and flavour, unwavering in its uniqueness, and simply a treat to drink.


It is not a wine for beginners, not an introduction to Italian reds, or even Puglia (or Sicily).  It is rustic, sensual and far from generic.  If there is an argument for terroir, you can find it here.  Absolutely one of the most fascinating, intriguing and captivating wines I’ve drunk in a long time.


Price: A not too price friendly $35 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar.


Market Liquidity: Out of time, like a Ramon Navarro movie from the silent era.

July 15, 2016

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay, 2014

Anthony Gismondi called this a “friendly bottle” and “real value” to which there is nothing much more to say.  It is, for a palatable BC white, that doesn’t hammer you with cloying oak, a reasonable and satisfying sipper.

Quails Gate Chardonnay 2014

However, it failed at the dinner table; a 1970s white wine Paul Masson spritzer would have been equally memorable.  And, get this: We drank it with plain grilled wild Sockeye.  Chardonnay and salmon :: bacon and eggs.  That was a killer, not just the fact that it was wafer thin, but that with the “perfect” pairing it disappeared into the background like so much foam from a Michelin starred chef, expertise without legs.


Still, at this price point, buy six or seven cases for the wedding.


Price: $20 or thereabouts if you can find it.


Market Liquidity: The Reiki of BC Chardonnay.

Paul Masson Orson Welles

July 12, 2016

Cassini Cellars Cabernet Franc, Collector’s Edition, 2012

Polished to within an inch of its life.  Any smoother and it would be Simoniz.  For those of us who purposefully pick out a Cabernet Franc (as opposed to say a Meritage), we probably have a predilection for a certain CF flavour profile.  I err to the side of what I call the saddle room, the pointsters call it the pencil shavings; I like the grittier elements, the musky, earthy, spiciness of CF.  This is floral, fruity and brimming with a heady bouquet of violets and candied fruit, much more reminiscent of a California Zin than (to my mind) Loire CF.  In fact, it has an assertiveness, a middle finger to Napa/Sonoma: Anything you can do Okanagan can do too.

Cassini Cabernet Franc 2012

Given the price point, I was hesitant.  I suspect a boozer willing to cough up $35 for a BC red will be happy with this bottle; in the end I was.  It is, after all, annoyingly food friendly and deceptively easy to drink despite an obnoxious 14.9 per cent alcohol volume.  It’s well balanced and has an elegance which would suit an occasion where a wine twice the price might be expected.  We’re going to taste test compare with the much cheaper Cassini Quattro, later this week.


Price: $35 at Swirl in White Rock before they closed; sold out at the vineyard.


Market Liquidity: Worth it but maybe not so worthy.