Archive for December, 2016

December 31, 2016

Seven Stones Speaking Rock Cabernet Franc, 2013


Another “Big BC Red” hauled out for the season.  Think of an air-horn, the kaboom in a Road Runner explosion, a thud and thump of Cabernet Franc so ridiculously assertive it nearly deafens.  Far from our favorite amongst Seven Stones many fine reds, this is still wonderful, if unsettling.  Of a different vintage John Schreiner wrote that the SS CF is a “swashbuckling” example of the varietal.  That and then some.  The deepness of the berry flavour is immediate and lasting, mitigated by a coarseness that is not so much aromatic as dead weight.


If you’re new to SS this shouldn’t be your first bottle.  But if you like their wines, which are grown in the Similkameen Valley in a place as near to heaven as BC gets (please, no federal park, please, no dam on the US side of the border), this is must for a sense of how much can be done on the north slopes of the valley, especially up against e.g., their Meritage or Syrah.


Price: $30 at the vineyard (although not that hard to source in private shops for around $36-$40).


Market Liquidity: An Okanagan heavyweight without the deftness or broad appeal found elsewhere in the Seven Stones catalog.

December 30, 2016

McPherson Chapter Three Shiraz, 2012


According to Gismondi, wine drinkers shun Shiraz.  I guess wine drinkers don’t eat pizza.  Because, I must say, Shiraz and pizza are as good as Barbaresco and pizza: Heavenly.


The Chapter Three comes on strong with some serious pepper kick, but it mellows on the palate with a round, juicy, berry mix of cherry and blackberry, then finishes with a slightly sweet and tart acidity that (truthfully) is not the epitome of Oz Shiraz.  But, get this: The C3 is on sale at BCL; at $24 before taxes you simply can’t go wrong at that price and it is, in that price range, stellar.


Price: $28 normally, but this Christmas $24; yes, there is a Santa.


Market Liquidity: It may not wow but it will warm and coddle and double as something as comforting as Linus’s blanket.

Homemade thin crust pizza.  Comfort food extraordinaire.

Homemade thin crust pizza. Comfort food extraordinaire.

December 29, 2016

Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio +04/10, 2013


First off, God how I hate Laughing Stock labels.  They suck.  They are infantile, cryptic, ridiculously over-designed, and stupidly difficult to decipher.  They are not like the simple, straightforward title to this blog post.  No.  In the wine store the label would read LFNG 2013 +04/10 with various degrees of various types in tiny font sizes crawling all over the bottle like some BFA grad got his/her first gig for a vintner and came up with originality plus.  The professionals defer on design—but design is marketing and marketing is market share and market share is why there are professionals reviewers.


Second, the reigning graphic king of the 20th century was Raymond Loewy. I think if he saw the LFNG labels he’d not over roll over in his grave, he’d vomit, he’d roil, he’d heave, he’d wave a white hanky.  I mean they really are that bad, that pretentious, that inane.  I love Loewy.  No one comes close.  LFNG needs to look at Loewy, his decades of accomplishment, take a deep breath, sing the Sesame Street song (“one of these things is not like the other”) and revisit the whole marketing scheme.  Scam.

Perhaps Raymond's finest hour...

Perhaps Raymond’s finest hour…


OK, that out of the way, yes the wine is great. The heavyweight bottles come out “in the season” and this is a “no regrets” brilliant BC red. Check out all the reviews; there is no bad review, there is no wrong review.  Is it worth the price?  (And I mean worth the price compared to Spain or Chile or South Africa?)  No.  It’s really really really wonderful wine that is too expensive.


We found this blend (Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Malbec & Petit Verdot) poignant.  Like a heartfelt work of art.  Not like Vermeer, something so exquisite it’s puzzling, something you can’t figure out, not like Caravaggio, something so breathtaking and audacious you can’t believe it was even painted in its day.  It’s more like Stanley Spencer.  Sir Stanley Spencer: Christ in Cookham.  Striking, pointed, contextual, clever, but not, say, Ridge, not Caymus.


There is a sensational, toxic, extemporaneous finish, and that was our favorite part.  The long, glorious finish.


But like all art, you’ll have to decide what suits your taste, your style, your budget.


Price: $45 before the extras at the vineyard, around $50 before tax at YVR private wine stores, so it will take a bite out of your wallet.


Market Liquidity: Even if you could afford an Old Master, would you buy one?


December 29, 2016

Two White Riojas: Acustic Celler Montsant & Altos Rioja Blanco


Acustic Celler Montsant, 2013

You could cut this with a knife; a thick and meaty white, minerally to the point of an old oil can, spirited citrus and nuanced wood that is more mushroom and moss than wood shavings.  We found the juicy, stony assertiveness of this very masculine white something to write home about.  A white Rioja blend (Macabeo and Garnacha) which is a tad out of the ordinary.  From a region just outside of Priorat that I’m totally unfamiliar with.  A little touch of seasonal novelty: Fresh, unexpected, invigorating. Stood up to and conquered a vegetarian saffron dish: Well done!


Altos Rioja Blanco, 2014

A little simple; citrus forward, lemon, lime, grapefruit pith, with a sweet and weighted tropical note.  Uber refreshing and a perfect pair with any number of rich shellfish or cheesy starter type dishes.  With a cheese and bacon quiche it worked a charm.  If you were “introducing” white Rioja to someone this might be the gateway wine.


The thing is this: White Rioja has so much to offer, but it simply can’t compete with Burgundy or New World Sauv Blanc; it doesn’t hold a candle to Riesling; it bows down and is trammeled by Alsace.  And yet, and yet, it is ridiculously food friendly and deserves a place at the table.  If you are bored with predictability, this will enliven your cellar.  (And, get this: Many bottles of white Rioja age a treat.)


Most white Rioja is Viura; the Altos is blended with Malvasia giving it a nice prune-ish edge.  The Acustic abandons Viura for something novel.  Both win in their way.


Price: The Altos you can find at private stores in YVR for as little $20 before extras; the Acustic, harder to find, will run you about seven dollars more.


Market Liquidity: Refresh your palate; there’s more to life than Chardonnay.

December 23, 2016

Kuhlmann-Platz Gewurtztraminer, 2015


I’m of the mind that Alsace rarely takes a wrong turn.  The wines are abundant and diverse in France while a little thin on the ground in BC.  Plus, they tend to be at a price point that is disadvantageous to the everyday drinker.


So, on this bottle, it scores for being a decent white, refined, not too expensive, and very approachable.  It is brimming with guava, pineapple and other tropical notes.  It went with Thai chicken green curry a treat, cut through spice and conquered residual coconut milk.  But it is not as accomplished as many wines of the region and it drinks just a tad too heavy, with too much syrup, like the bottom of a tin of lychees, than I prefer.


Natalie MacLean went bonkers over this wine.  As a food friendly white, for international cuisine, full marks.  But I could stand a little more to ponder (like the dreamy Gruner Vetliner from Culmina we drank a few weeks ago).


Price: Under $20 at BC Liquor before (what I like to call) tax and tip.


Market Liquidity: It works, but sometimes that’s not enough.


December 23, 2016

Seasonal Sparklers: Kim Crawford Fizz, 2011 & Jansz Premium Cuvée


It’s amazing what shows up under the tree this time of year.  Even a bottle of (the eloquent, nutty, dry, oozingly charming) Veuve.  But for those of us who have more realistic wine budgets, I’m always on the lookout for something a little bit, how shall I put it, pocket-book friendly.


We pitted Natalie MacLean’s pick, the boisterous, fruity, and ridiculously effervescent Kim Craword against the dryer, simpler and maybe more satisfying Tasmanian Jansz.  The sparkling Pinot we discovered in the summer trumps both of these, but at the price point I could recommend either as a cocktail mixer or, on their own, I’d prefer the Jansz, with its aromas of berries, a hint of hazelnut and a long lemony finish.  And boy would I like Marquis or Liberty or even BC Liquor to ship in some of their late disgorged or myriad other sparklers, not just the base model.


The Kim Crawford is actually a vintage fizz and we had higher expectations.  It was more on the “fun” side than the serious side, but which is sillier, KC calling their bubble Fizz or Jansz saying they make Méthode Tasmenoise?


Price: Jansz is $28 before the extras, Kim Crawford, $30 before all the rest.


Market Liquidity: Brilliant.  Both.  (There are no bad reviews of sparkling allowed in the holiday season.)


December 22, 2016

Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012


A hedonistic and rather weighty California Cab Sauv, without the balance or depth of the old world heavy hitters, and frankly not my personal bent when I look for a good red.  Better than Coppola, to my mind, though.  Regardless of my taste, is it good?  Plum, pepper, maraschino, an earthy funk emanates from the oak, incredibly good, appealing and warming and toxic.  On the flip side, it’s 14.5% and while superb with red meat was patently “sippingly un-friendly.”


Probably one of the best CA Cab Sauvs BC Liquor has in its regular stock (although not easy to source).


Price: All in with taxes $30.  Not too shabby.


Market Liquidity: It stands side by side with BC reds going for double the price.



December 6, 2016

Ring Bolt Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013


If you’ve never had a Cab Sauv from Western Australia, I bet you could fool your pseudo vino friends by telling them it’s a California Pinot on a blind test.  There is something light, ethereal, charmingly fruity, and without the “impressiveness” of, say, Caymus.  I’ve only drunk a doz or so, but I find they are great to sip and fun to consider, in a back to back, with something more austere.


This lovely bottle is lively, acidic, brimming with a cherry soda top note and with a light but lingering berry finish.  It sips better than expected but held up quite well to turkey meatballs. Screw top to boot.


Price: $25 before tax at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.


Market Liquidity: The warmth and pleasure of a swim in the Indian Ocean at a beach in Perth. In a bottle.


December 6, 2016

Culmina Unicus, Gruner Vetliner, 2015


In the spirit of yesterday’s review, let’s disseminate the professional tasting notes. Here’s what Lawrason wrote (who, when he was at the Globe, was my favorite Canuck reviewer):


“Austria’s Gruner Veltliner is rare in Canada but you can bet others will be planting following the critical success of Unicus. This pours deeply lemon. The nose is very intense and exotic with ripe apricot, starfruit, honey and pepper. It’s quite full bodied, bright and almost aggressive with some oily and waxy character. It’s medium full bodied, firm and drier than first appearances. The length is excellent to outstanding.”


Yes.  Wow.  Yes, yes, yes.  Everything.  And the kitchen sink.  The most palatable decently priced satisfying and engaging BC white we’ve had in a long, long time.  And just look at that golden hue in the glass.  Nectar from the gods.


Gismondi gave it a measly 89 points.  He is a hard nut.


Price: $27 from the vineyard.


Market Liquidity: Season’s Greetings.


December 6, 2016

Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera, 2014


Barbera.  Ba, ba, boring.


We spent over a week drinking what I thought would be novel and interesting wines, including a highly praised Muscadet (dry verging on sour), a pricey bottle of bubbly (too much gloss and not enough expertise), and (with expectations very low) a mid-week Barbera.  This blog isn’t about complaining, it’s about stumbling across value and getting excited about the craft, but when bottle after bottle disappoints, I wonder if there is just too much wine being made with labels and reviewers proclaiming otherwise?


Who turns up their nose to a decent bottle of Barbera on a Tuesday night?  Not me.  Unless it’s just like so much mediocre wine bogging down the market.  How do the professionals do it?  Taste so much mediocrity I mean—and then find gentle ways to nudge on the industry?  I’d rather have to sit through yet more franchise comic book movies and churn out 700 words for Rolling Stone; brain deterioration must be better than liver…


Here are some real people actual wine drinkers paying out of pocket corrections to the professional reviews:

“Packed with black fruit.”  No.  Burnished with fruit flavour.

“Spice overtones hinting at black pepper and cinnamon.”  Hinting being the operative word.  Some fundamentals, as opposed to overtones, would be appreciated.

“Sweet, soft tannins come together in a closely-woven texture.” Crude tannins diminish any complexity in the wine and leave it flat.

“A crisp freshness provides a long tasty finish.”  A rather pedestrian fruity finish will lead you to buy another label next time round.


Price: A mere $15 in Ontario.  $22 and more in BC.  Go figure.


Market Liquidity: When what should be value disappoints.