Archive for ‘British Columbia’

October 20, 2020

Culmina Hypothesis, 2012

From the cellar: A perpetual critic’s pick, Gismondi basically gives it a pass, year after year.  It is a typical Okanagan potent potable, with heft and then some.  And although I’ve only drunk less than five bottles, since discovering Culmina, it’s never left a huge impression.

It certainly lacks the wow factor of, say, Ridge or Caymus.  It doesn’t have the huge appeal you’d expect at the price point and being a BC flagship red blend, being the Culmina flagship red blend.  But it’s good.  $50 good?  You tell me.

How we came across this 2012 I don’t know; perhaps a gift, maybe a purchase at the vineyard.  We do have another lying down, part of their mixed six pack reds they offered this summer.  But the 2012, at eight years, did not leave anyone at table champing at the bit for more.  Which is a shame, this should be a celebratory bottle.

Price: Lost our record, but close to $50 I would imagine.

Market Liquidity: Not every Mercedes is a gullwing 300 SL; in other words, buyer beware the lure of luxury.

October 20, 2020

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir, 2018

From our most recent mixed case, we busted out a bottle of the PN as a tester.  OOF, what a punchy pop; no pointster is going to review this as “tight”.  Super pronounced, sharp and peppery on the first sip, gobs of nuanced berry, cedar shavings and a soft, long, long finish.  It was satisfaction at first sip.

Of note, though, is we decanted, and with air some of that punch was diminished, not in a good way.  Which, I should point out, did not take away from our overall enjoyment, it was just surprising how some of the bulk and body of the bottle seemed to evaporate in pretty quick order.

Price: $35 direct from the vineyard.

Market Liquidity: Charm offensive.

October 20, 2020

Sea Star Ortega, 2019

A whack of stone fruit, notably apple and pear, with an apple cider acidity that rounds out the syrupy weight.  Delightfully light and weighty all at once; heaps more likable than the Salish Sea, which we dissed a few weeks back…

Sea Star generally grows the right grapes in the right region and makes wines that are complementary to so much west coast cuisine, most commonly low in alcohol, and inherently social.  But they can miss, as well.  For a light lunch, an afternoon aperitif, or just to pair with a nibble of cheese, the Ortega fits the bill.

Price: $24.27 at the Saturna General Store.

Market Liquidity: Easy on the palate and the pocketbook.

September 24, 2020

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir, 2017

We received our annual case from the vineyard and thought we should “finish up” last year’s remnants to avoid any confusion (!).

Of two bottles in a mixed case we had the first last December.  Our review, here, was of a take it or leave it nature, unimpressed and let down.  So, on first sip of this second bottle, nearly a year later, much of the same, nonplussed.  Pretty ho-hum.

But, sip after sip, this wine popped.  Big time.  I was resentful on the last half glass, resentful the bottle was empty I mean.  And, I was pissed off at our December post last year; we drank it too soon.

Woodsy and herbaceous, some spicy cinnamon, juicy gobs of cherry, time and air bringing to life a really evocative PN.  The filbert finish a touching denouement on a classic Okanagan PN.  Not a whiff of the coconut we made note of on the previous bottle.  Time and air, Hugh Johnson has waxed poetic on how time and air can alter wine. Amazing.

Price: $35 from the vineyard in 2019.

Market Liquidity: A series of fortunate events sips.

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September 18, 2020

Sea Star Salish Sea, 2019

We have waxed poetic on Sea Star.  Oh my goodness have we said some fine things about Sea Star.  But alas we are parting ways on this year’s Salish Sea.

Where to begin?  Sweet but not pleasant.  Light, but watery (look at the wine glass, it could be flat Perrier).  Thin without redemption.  Mediocre with food and banal as a sipper.  I don’t know if there’s too much tropical with not enough weight, so you get that phoniness of canned fruit cocktail, or whether it was just a bad year.

It pains me to write this.  Seriously.

Check out the archive, it was total infatuation: The Siegerrebe, 2014, hats off.  The Stella Maris 2015, we were pragmatic but adoring.  The Ortega, 2016, absolutely loved it.  The Pinot Gris 2016; went ga ga. Ga ga. We drooled. So it was crushing to end up with half a case of duds.

Plus, you know, Sea Star is impossible to find.  We pick up a case every year on the Southern Gulf Islands, but outside the SGI good luck.  Oh well, the remainder will make a fine risotto.

Price: $24.27 at Saturna General Store. A very reasonable price I should add

Market Liquidity: Double bogey.

September 18, 2020

Culmina Saignée, 2019

Part of the summer whites package Culmina was passing off this year (to, no doubt, their very loyal fan base).  Hmmm.

OK, let’s start here: In over a decade of blogging about wine we have less than a dozen posts on rosé.  Why?  It’s an upsell wine.  It’s never as good as white (because when it’s chilled it loses flavour whereas, say, Champagne comes alive) and it’s never as good as red (because as it warms, and gains flavour, it’s both not as good as red and without the refreshing zest of white).  It’s a lose lose blend.  But you can’t stop seeing it on the shelves, shoved down our throats.

Well you know what?  If you must drink rosé, drink this.  It has enough heft to be interesting mixed with enough fruit, predominantly raspberry, to be heads and tails above a lot of other Okanagan offerings. I will say this: In summer, on the deck, it was very pleasant.

Still, mixed feelings. And when we moved on to red at dinner I was much more content.

Price: $24 direct from vineyard.

Market Liquidity: We give it our rosé seal of approval (which is of course not a real thing).

NB: Kudos to the photog who captured the underside of a table lamp.

September 18, 2020

Culmina Skin Contact Gewurztraminer No 008

Despite the literal and slightly ludicrous name and number (not a bad thing I guess, Mutiny on the Bunny was, obviously, the Bugs Bunny take on Mutiny on the Bounty) an unusual and striking wine.  As per a few Culmina bottlings it comes with the glass stopper.  The first place I saw this was Alsace, over 10 years ago, but I do think it’s a brilliant idea on light whites where, generally, they get drunk in one go like Kool-Aid.

We opened this to to drink with a poached halibut in light curry; cumin, ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, and basil.  It was magnificent.  Often wine works with food, sometimes it clashes (peanuts anyone?) but once in a while you get that marriage, that yin and yang of a wine up to the task but not overpowering the food.  Everything just tastes better together.  It was this stellar complement, this quirky Gewurtz, that made the dinner so much better. If this had occurred in a restaurant the post would end here; five stars.

Of course we didn’t finish the bottle at dinner and later, having another glass just as a sipper, it fell apart. And then another glass, and more disappointment. I don’t know what petroleum tastes like but my guess is something like Vaseline, or this wine, and as a sipper this was harsh and pungent with a fruity attack that cloyed and ridiculously unpleasant on the palate.

So there you go, we loved it and we lost it.

Price: $24 direct from vineyard.

Market Liquidity: More fair weather friend than BFF.

September 3, 2020

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling, 2017 & Tantalus Riesling, 2019

Gismondi gave an over the top review for the 2019 Tantalus Riesling, suggesting we horde; it is after all the current trent. He said “back up the truck” so we took him at his word and got a case of the 2019 and then at private stores sourced some old vines. And I gotta say, it’s good, it’s worth it, but it just didn’t knock our socks off the way his review did.

The OV is sharp and acidic and striking. If there’s a barbed wire Riesling, this is it. The 2019 is more overtly approachable and, on the palate, has plenty of depth and is determined to proclaim itself RIESLING. Both are decently low alcohol and superbly food friendly. But, overall, we reserve judgement. The 2019, after a sample, went “into the cellar” to revisit post-Covid, sometime down the road in the new normal. I’m calling it something to look forward to.

Price: An extremely reasonable $21.75 at the vineyard for the 2019; nearly double for the OV at private stores.

Market Liquidity: At less than $22 a bottle it’s a science experiment; only time will tell.

August 31, 2020

Culmina No 0006 Unfiltered “Jeunes Vignes” Malbec, 2016

Astonishing. 

First of all, Malbec is not what most people think of, gravitate towards, or intentionally set out to buy when they want a BC red.  Then to discover that not only is this wine phenomenally tasty, lip smackingly appealing on the palate, and reasonably food friendly, and a Malbec, my gosh, sleeper of the summer.

You could drink this melancholy, listening to Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou play The Homeless Wanderer.

Or, you could drink this toasted, to the garage rock sounds of Chevrolet Van by the Nude Party. It swings either way.

Or you may search high and low trying to source a bottle, and come up empty handed, and that’s how it goes with a lot of evocative BC wines.  The search, I would suggest, is worth the effort.  Two bottles of this will cost you about the same as one bottle of Hypothesis from a private Vancouver wine retailer, and might give you twice the pleasure.  It is certainly a social red, not overtly endearing like Merlot but with just enough edge in the structure to lend a curiosity and oomph.

Price: $29 from the vineyard.  Get it by the half case.

Market Liquidity: An everyday red that drinks like something meant to impress.

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August 31, 2020

Culmina Cabernet Franc, 2014

$38 is too much money for this wine. 

The pointsters will rarely write something so baldly true but it’s true.  I mean you can spend $1500 on a French CF at BC Liquor, if that sort of cash is burning a hole in your wallet.  But CF is something we have, in BC, in relative abundance.  There is plenty of wholly palatable non-plonk under $30.  And $38 is the vineyard price.  You will pay more at the VQA stores in YVR (if you can find it).

A big chunk of this blog isn’t to weigh in, pointster style, on how wonderful wine is, how true to the varietal, or not.  We have given ourselves over to the vice.  Wine we have decided is wonderful at 89 points or 92.  Most of our comment is to think of the after cash money we have to spend on wine, the exorbitant prices we pay for wine in BC, and then to look at value, per sip, per meal, and unlike the Robert Parkers of the world, with comp bottles and label mania, we basically come down to utility and satisfaction.

It’s a wonderful bottle.  It’s just at least $10 too much. 

Price: I think I mentioned it?  (And last time I did intentionally shop for a BC CF, Seven Stones, Tinhorn, Black Sage and quite a few other totally acceptable and very tasty CF’s were less; markedly so.)

Market Liquidity: The loveliness was diminished by the price tag.